June 24, 2020 at 7:22 am EDT | by Philip Van Slooten
Roem proposes repurposing of middle school to commemorate Stonewall riots
Stonewall Middle School, gay news, Washington Blade
Stonewall Middle School (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) has called for the repurposing of a Prince William County middle school to commemorate the Stonewall riots.

The Prince William County Public School Board will hold its second community input session over the renaming of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School on Thursday. Roem has called for Stonewall Middle School in Manassas to be repurposed as a way to honor the Stonewall riots.

“We can celebrate the cause of liberation led by empowered Black and Brown trans women Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera that launched the LGBTQ civil rights movement at the Stonewall Inn in New York City in 1969,” tweeted Roem on June 19.

However, she said the high school name should be changed entirely. State Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-Prince William County) wrote a letter to the school board supporting Roem’s position.

“I write to support the recommendation given by Del. Danica Roem,” Foy stated. “To repurpose the name ‘Stonewall Middle School’ to celebrate a cause led by people of color who fought for equity, justice and liberation.”

In a June 5 statement to students, parents and staff, Superintendent Steven Walts presented an “Action Plan to Combat Racism” which called for renaming the two schools as well as prohibiting the wearing or flying of the Confederate flag on school property and the forming of a community panel to review the division’s memorandum of understanding regarding the school resource officers currently working in county schools.

“We can no longer represent the Confederacy in our schools,” Walts stated. “It is an insult and an affront to our students, especially in schools where the majority of the students are of color.”

Both schools have a majority Latino student population and Stonewall Jackson Senior High School has the third-lowest graduation rate in the county, reported the Potomac Local News.

The news site also reported Occoquan District School Board member Lillie Jessie supported the name change but urged board members to address academic disparities at the high school as well.

Jessie said the board should develop plans “to reduce the achievement gap between minority and majority levels at a significant level,” as well as “provide programs that support college and/career option[s] for all of our graduates.”

This latest round of efforts to rename the schools follows weeks of international protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and others due to police and racial violence. In Prince William County it also follows the firing of a coach and a teacher’s aide employed by the school system for racist comments made on social media, according to the Prince William Times.

“Having a building named for someone who offends so many people goes to the heart of who we are and what we’re putting out there to others,” School Board Chair Dr. Babur Lateef told the Times. “We decided that the school board needs to take this up soon.”

The virtual public hearing is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. Community members can also comment at the June 29 meeting when the school board votes on the renaming.

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