From Lee to Liberty

A Look Into Recent Focus on Unethical Toponyms

Recently, the issue of controversial school names has come into the limelight and more and more toponyms are seeing changes for the better (Public Domain Image).

Recently, the issue of controversial school names has come into the limelight and more and more toponyms are seeing changes for the better (Public Domain Image).

Ashley Greenblatt, Reporter

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Langley High School. What comes to mind when you hear that? Do you know where Langley got its name? In the past few years, there has been heightened attention on the history behind the names of school facilities in FCPS and surrounding counties; leading to controversy in school communities between those in favor of renaming a facility and those that are against it.  

Under current FCPS rules, the School Board can consider changing the name of a school facility for reasons where there exists some compelling need. The vagueness in this statement has proven to be controversial among board members and representatives because it leaves room for interpretation. Changes to the current regulation are to be discussed at the October 10th board meeting, as representatives are trying to decide on more detailed and clear-cut wording. Board members, such as Mason District Representative Sandy Evans, have been working to advocate their stance on this topic. 

“The key recommendation is to reference the One Fairfax policy on an inclusive, respectful learning environment as a reason to change a school name,” Evans said. “The Superintendent is still working on revising regulations that provide more details on the process. One of my colleagues has let us know she plans to offer an amendment to include more details about the process into the policy.” 

Evans has played a large role in progressing the renaming process on schools in FCPS, J.E.B. Stewart in particular. 

“It’s important to have a welcoming learning environment for all students. Words and symbols have meaning and send a message to students, parents and the community about what we value,” Evans said. “After considerable review of the history surrounding the naming of J.E.B Stuart High School, I came to the conclusion that that name was not reflective of our values of inclusion and equity, and I led the effort to rename that school, which the Board ultimately renamed Justice High School.” 

The recent focus on this topic has raised questions about the history behind the name of Langley High School. The Langley community can rest assured knowing that Langley was named after Langley Manor, which was a part of the Lee family estate in England. Thomas Lee, an ancestor of general Robert E. Lee, was one of the first colonists to advance the idea that the colonies should become a separate nation and owned a vast array of land in the area surrounding where Langley High School stands. 

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