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Group of Washington-Lee High School graduates oppose potential name change in Arlington

Washington-Lee High School graduates oppose potential name change in Arlington (ABC7)

The Arlington County School Board is expected to vote on a proposal next week that would force the name “Lee” to be removed from Washington-Lee High School.

The school is named for George Washington and Confederate general and former Arlington resident Robert E. Lee. The school system says it received “numerous” requests to remove Lee’s name after race-related riots in Charlottesville last August.

A report presented to the school board Thursday night concluded that “Robert E. Lee’s ‘principal legacy’was as General of the Confederate Army leading forces against the U.S. forces. This action does not reflect the APS mission, vision, and core values/beliefs.”

But a group of alumni who gathered with Republican U.S. Senate candidate Corey Stewart before Thursday night’s school board meeting say the name Lee should stay.

“It’s just another indication of political correctness gone rampant,” Stewart said.

“It can be a teaching point, versus having somebody be looked at as all bad. He was not all bad,” said Washington-Lee High graduate Lynne Lilly.

Supporters of keeping the name Lee say it’s a part of history and point out Lee did more than just lead the Confederate army. After the Civil War he became known for pushing for peace and reconciliation, a fact honored at the temporarily closed National Park Service site Arlington House, which is part of Arlington National Cemetery.

Supporters of keeping the name Lee as part of the high school say at the very least the school board should allow the voters to decide the issue.

“There are certain issues that are just too big to be decided by a small group of frankly easily influenced individuals,” said Washington-Lee graduate Dean Fleming.

But others who spoke to ABC7 News before Thursday night’s school board meeting say the name Lee has no place being part of a county school’s name.

“To me it’s simple. Robert E. Lee is a traitor,” Arlington resident Terron Sims II said. “If Robert E. Lee would have had his way, our country would have been splintered into at least into two pieces.”

“You put things in museums because you want to preserve history. Putting Lee’s name on a school is commemorating him, and he doesn’t deserve to be commemorated,” said Arlington County Public Schools graduate Graham Weinschenk. “He fought for slavery, and he lost.”

The school board is scheduled to vote on a school naming policy change that would force the name Lee to be dropped next Thursday. If the school board votes for the change, the school system would begin a process to come up with a new name next school year.

Washington-Lee High School opened in 1925.

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