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School board votes to rename Washington-Lee HS in Virginia to Washington-Liberty

WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. logo WUSA-TV Washington, D.C. 1/11/2019 Erin Roby, Peggy Fox

The Arlington County School Board voted to rename Washington-Lee High School to Washington-Liberty High School on Thursday night. 

The school board vote 5-0 to rename the school Washington-Liberty over the original proposed name Washington-Loving.  

The vote brought outbursts from several alumni angry over the process and the decision.  

"Very immoral, illegal, underhanded process, steeped with deceit and lies," said W-L alum Dean Flemming who supported a lawsuit against the school board filed by three students. 

They accused the board of not following it's own process and now involving the community appropriately.  

RELATED: Washington-Lee HS in Virginia may soon be renamed Washington-Loving despite lawsuit

The Arlington County School Board voted last summer to change its policy on naming schools. Minutes later, the board votes to ditch the name Lee from  Washington-Lee because the Confederate General's name does not meet the new standards which address the person's principal legacy.  

Though Lee pushed for reconciliation after the Civil War, his principal legacy was fighting for the Confederacy, which fought to keep slavery legal.

At Thursday night's meeting, 18 speakers signed up, all but three spoke out against a name change.

Those who favor a name change were pleased with the outcome.  

"We're not erasing history, we're enhancing legacy. We're sticking with the beloved W-L acronym. While this wasn't part of our purview, we also heard from the community and their desire to retain General (as the mascot), and I think Washington-Liberty Generals offers that as well.  We were thinking about fiduciary responsibility, minimize the cost of change," said Peter Strack, a supporter of the name change who was on the renaming committee.  

He said they were also thinking about the impact to the minority community and the historically disenfranchised.

The idea to change the name came up after white supremacists marched in a deadly protest in Charlottesville. 

The renaming committee committee‘s first choice was Washington-Loving, after the Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage. The  alternate choice was Washington-Liberty. 

While board members were split on the Liberty and Loving, when the majority announced their support for Liberty, the others said they would reverse their decision and vote for Liberty.  

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A black leader in Arlington is against the changing of names. Scott Taylor runs the Black Heritage Museum in Arlington County. He is also an Arlington native who attended an all black segregated school before desegregation. 

"I think that we are tearing down history. And, we don't think you should tear down history, you build history up. You have conversations about things you don't want to talk about. You don't just get rid of it. That's not how you calm, quell or fix things," said Taylor. 

Washington-Lee High School opened as an all-while school in 1925. It was the first high school to open its doors to black students in 1959. 

The school will take on its new name Washington-Liberty at the start of the next school year in 2019.

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