Letter on Decision to Name High School After Civil Rights Leader John R. Lewis
Name Honors Civil Rights Leader
Dear Students, Parents and Community Members,
Today, the Fairfax County School Board voted to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School to John R. Lewis High School. I was proud to recommend to the Board that we name our school after such a distinguished American. John R. Lewis High School is a name our students can be proud of and one we will celebrate.
Congressman John Lewis represented the state of Georgia in the U.S. House of Representative for 33 years. He was a civil rights leader and one of the original organizers of the 1963 March on Washington to draw attention to inequalities faced by African Americans. He also led the Selma to Montgomery march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. Known as Bloody Sunday, the civil rights demonstrators were marching to the state capital to demand voting rights for African Americans when they were met by armed police who attacked them. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, was signed into law later that year and is considered , one of the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history. Congressman Lewis was the recipient of many awards throughout his lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011. Congressman Lewis died on July 17, 2020.
The process to change the name began in February when I was joined by At-Large Board member Karen Keys-Gamarra to initiate the renaming of the school as outlined in FCPS Regulation 8170, Procedures for Naming School Facilities and Dedicating Areas of School Facilities or Grounds.
We have heard from students, parents, alumni, staff and community members throughout the process. We received hundreds of comments via email and received more than 170 name suggestions, in addition to the input collected at two community meetings and two public hearings.
The name will go into effect this school year. We will immediately begin replacing items and have already removed many of the items from the school with the old name. Principal Alfonso Smith will be coordinating the implementation of the new name along with staff from FCPS facilities, information technology, and other departments.
We are proud of John R. Lewis High School and we know that our students, parents, staff, and community will be, too. We believe that John Lewis’ extraordinary life and advocacy for racial justice will serve as an inspiration to our students and community for generations to come.
Tamara Derenak Kaufax
Fairfax County School Board
Assistant Superintendent, Region 3