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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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DOJ charges eleven pro-life protesters ‘aided and abetted by one another’

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Eleven pro-life protesters were charged with violating federal law by the Department of Justice Wednesday for blocking abortion clinics. The individuals, “aided and abetted by one another, used force and physical obstruction to injure, intimidate, and interfere with employees of the clinic and a patient who was seeking reproductive health services” said the DOJ.

According to a summary of the indictment, seven of the demonstrators were charged with conspiracy against rights secured by the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act, which prohibits obstructing the entrance to an abortion facility. The remaining four were charged with violating the legislation.

Pro-life activist AJ Hurley told Live Action News  the FBI raided the home of Chester Gallagher, the organizer of the protest and one of the accused conspirators, on Tuesday with guns drawn. He said Gallagher’s neighbors told him Gallagher was out of state when the FBI showed up and entered his home.

National Review reports that Hurley also told Live Action News that the FBI reportedly recently called a few of the charged individuals to tell them they had arrest warrants and that they must turn themselves in. If convicted, those charged with conspiracy could face up to eleven years in prison and fines up to $250,000, the DOJ confirmed.

National Review writes:

Gallagher allegedly advertised a series of pro-life events on social media for March 2021 in the Nashville area. The indictment claims he and other coordinators recruited participants to travel to the city and erect a blockade, which Gallagher allegedly called a “rescue,” at Carafem Health Center Clinic in Mount Juliet, Tenn., to prevent pregnant women from pursuing abortions.

A livestream of the stand-in shows activists chanting and singing prayer up the stairs to and along the hallway outside the abortion clinic, located in an office complex. Police officers eventually appeared in the video urging them to take their protest outside to the sidewalk.

“This is not allowed guys. Asking you to leave the property or I will call the police,” a security guard can be heard saying. The indictment alleges that the group prevented a patient and an employee from entering the facility. After they refused to leave the premises, the activists were reportedly escorted away to jail by police on misdemeanor trespassing charges. One pro-life activist wroteon March 6, 2021, on Facebook the claim that one “rescuer” was held on $1,000 bail, six, including Gallagher, on $1,500 bail, and two on $2,500 bail.

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