FCCPS needs to put its money where its mouth is

thomas+jefferson+elementary+building

The Thomas Jefferson Elementary School building. Earlier this month, the School Board voted to change the names of the elementary school and high school. (Photo by Sam Mostow)

Audrey Morrison, Staff Reporter

The School Board has announced that they plan to move forward in the future to implement anti-racism practices and policies. As a student at GMHS, this is so wonderful to hear. But as much as the School Board insists that changing the name is just the first step towards bringing change to our school systems, it is important to actually consider how much time, money, and effort will go towards nullifying oppression in our community versus simply rebranding. 

Regardless of sentimental value for the name, our school’s legacy, and our sports teams, this could be a very costly endeavor. It is estimated that the signage for Thomas Jefferson Elementary alone will cost $13,000. Is this really where we want our taxpayer money to go? Although the fear of poverty and homelessness in Falls Church is thankfully low, it is so much more privileged to think that the allocation of these funds are nothing to the hard-working families of our city. How much are we willing to pay for the name alone of our schools? And although your family might feel fine with the school spending a few thousand dollars, we can’t assume that everyone feels comfortable doing this.

In no way should we dismiss the very real feelings of POC who are offended by the name. But I don’t think this is the right way to go about bringing real change to our school system.If we were to allocate all of the taxpayer money, or at least a substantial amount greater than that of the funds for the new name (and everything that entails – including uniforms, scoreboards, sports equipment, and the actual signage), to teach unity and perspective in our community, we would start to see and experience real change. 

The distribution of our hard-earned money should turn the focus away from the name itself and towards changing the actual curriculum to create long-lasting designs to fight oppression. Many believe that changing the names of the schools is the first step in the right direction, but by focusing on image without substantiality, we are encouraging future generations to participate in performative activism as a means to bring actual change. The name change is the primary concentration of discourse, alienization, and conflict in this conversation. If we continue to engage in and spotlight virtue signaling, we may never actually get to the problems at hand. Even as a white-passing (a buzzword, I know – but relevant and true nonetheless) Vietnamese-American woman I am still met with micro aggressions and casual racism. I remember being in a science class last year as a sophomore and a classmate asked me if I eat dogs and cats. I can’t even begin to imagine what other people of color – especially Black students – in my school face at the hands of their peers. 

Hatred isn’t inherent in any of us; it is taught. And changing the name won’t teach students to stop using racist or sexist rhetoric. Updating the curriculum and applying modern-day events to our education could, at the least, provide another perspective. And I think we all need a bit of perspective right now.

If changing the names of George Mason and Thomas Jefferson mean that these things will stop, we should all completely, full-heartedly support it. But if the focus remains on rebranding instead of application and confrontation, I don’t think that the name change will have any long lasting effects on our education and student body.

This is one of a series of student-written opinions about the potential name change of George Mason High School and Thomas Jefferson Elementary. Read more here.

Opinion articles in The Lasso reflect the opinion of the writer(s). They do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Lasso Editorial Board or of George Mason High School.