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Virginia school district votes to rename Thomas Jefferson, George Mason schools

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The board of a Virginia school district voted on Tuesday in favor of renaming two schools, both named after two United States founding fathers from Virginia, saying, “Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and community members feel safe, supported, and inspired.”

The Falls Church School Board voted unanimously to change the names of two of its constituent schools, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School and George Mason High School.

According to a press release from Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS), the vote followed a six-month-long process, which consisted of hours of public hearings, hundreds of submitted written public comments, and a survey of the community to inform the board’s decision.

“The Board took seriously the viewpoints and concerns raised by many students, parents, staff, and community members,” said School Board Chair Greg Anderson.

“We thank everyone who shared their perspectives with us and will be mindful of your comments as we now begin selecting names that reflect the diversity of opinions in our community,” he added. “Our schools must be places where all students, staff, and community members feel safe, supported, and inspired.”

The renaming process will follow the guidelines outlined in the FCCPS Regulation FFA-R School Building Names Committee, the press release explains. The superintendent will accept individuals’ nominations to sit on an “Advisory Study Committee” to the school board for each school name. Following which, the committees will recommend five names to the school board.

At an upcoming meeting, the board will announce the timeline for the work.

This move by the school board comes amid a growing movement in recent years to remove statues and public displays honoring certain U.S. historical figures who held racist views or engaged in racist practices, especially those who had owned slaves or fought in the Civil War for the Confederate States.

In a significant example, Princeton University changed the name of one of its schools that had been named after World War I-era President Woodrow Wilson, who held views considered racist by the standards of his time, once hosting a screening of the pro-Ku Klux Klan film Birth of A Nation (1915) at the White House, the first film to ever have been screened at the president’s residence.

It is worth noting that another component of this movement seeks to remove Confederate symbols from public use. This has led to many public statues of Confederate figures being removed and to Mississippi this year changing its state flag to a new one that does not contain the racist Confederate Battle Flag.

Countless schools, institutions, and places have been named after Jefferson over the course of the country’s history, being one of the most popular U.S. historical figures who people name things after. It was the Declaration of Independence’s author who founded the prestigious University of Virginia, where his legacy is still predominates the campus near his Monticello home and plantation.

Notably, Mason is the namesake of the renown George Mason University in Virginia’s Fairfax County.

When it comes to the debate about the legacy of Jefferson and other slave-owning founding fathers, advocates for changing names and public statues argue that slavery should be enough to warrant those changes while those on the other side defending such naming and statues argue that removing history will mean younger generations won’t learn from it.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Israel

Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar kicked off House Foreign Affairs Committee

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Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar was voted off the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday. The action was expected, as Republican members of Congress had criticized Omar’s antisemetic and anti-American rhetoric.

After intense debating on the House floor, the resolution passed with a 218-211 vote. Democrats attempted to pull the race card, accusing Republican House members of racism for removing Omar from the committee.

Omar also accused House Republicans of racism, saying, “I am Muslim, I am an immigrant, and interestingly, from Africa…Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted? Is anyone surprised that I am somehow deemed unworthy to speak about American foreign policy, or that they see me as a powerful voice that needs to be silenced?”

“There is this idea that you are a suspect if you are an immigrant or if you are from certain parts of the world or certain skin tone or a muslim.” Omar said during the heated debate. A fiery Alexandria Ocasia Cortez also chimed in shouting, “This is an attack on women of color!”

Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, from New York, said she had personally witnessed Omar spew anti-American rhetoric. Malliotakis said, “I have been in that committee room where, the representative, equates Israel and the United States to Hamas and the Taliban. Absolutely unacceptable for a member of that committee.”

A four-page resolution was written for the justification of removing Omar from the house Foreign Affairs Committee. The resolution states that in 2019, Omar suggested that Jewish people were buying U.S. political support when she posted on Twitter, “it’s all about the Benjamins, baby.”

Omar also commented on the September 11th attacks saying, “some people did something.” This type of comment is unacceptable for any representative who is sitting on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, lawmakers said.

In the resolution it states that members of this committee should all be held to an “equal standard of conduct due to the international sensitivities and national security concerns under the jurisdiction of this committee.”

 

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