The Jeb Stuart High School Name Change Farce - A Debunked Activist Campaign Rolling Down a Slippery Tax Slope
Andre Billeaudeaux is a county taxpayer and a father of two school aged children who attend or will be attending JEB Stuart High School. The following blog post is a response TPA recieved from Mr. Billeaudeaux to an Inside Sources op-ed authored by TPA President David Williams.
Last month David Williams of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance warned Virginians of Fairfax County that they were the target of a Hollywood-based “PC” crusade against the name of the county’s JEB Stuart High School. Williams dutifully warned that a victory for this ‘pet social cause’ would cost “a whopping $700,000 at a time when dollars for education are already stretched thin.” While the county loudly laments the loss of nearly 2,200 school positions and $500 million from their budget since 2007, County leaders are looking to stem their fiscal bleeding by slapping an extra 4 percent surcharge on meals served in Falls Church restaurants. The proposed “Meal Tax” will hit everyone in the county from tourists to “Raider” students.
For many in the JEB Stuart community, the thought of heaping on needless costs for an unwarranted name change became too much to bear when it became clear that they were becoming victims of not just a Stuart smear campaign but a campaign that was seemingly embraced, yet intellectually unchallenged, by at least one member of the twelve member school board who was pushing for a speedy option to have the name changed.
In response to this haste and in support of the majority of both resident and student surveys which articulated “NO” to a school name change, two advocacy groups formed: Save our School (SOS) and Concerned Citizens of Fairfax. These groups formed to slow the needlessly rapid proposed process while shinning a light on the “facts” as presented by actress Julianne Moore, producer Bruce Cohen and blunt the anti-Jeb Stuart messaging provided by outside groups. The groups gained immediate small victories in delaying a hastily called June meeting designed to pick a new school name while winning concessions on a pending school board resolution to form a name change working group which would impact JEB Stuart students during the 2016/17 school year.
Other victories included pressuring two JEB Stuart teachers to remove a wildly inaccurate and incendiary You Tube video where their student’s proclaimed Jeb Stuart “hated black people” and “killed slaves” while the teachers thoughtlessly echoed the easily debunked Hollywood talking points. The groups also gained media attention and support when the school board had its own taxpayer-funded positive JEB Stuart school tribute video removed from its own website during a period of public debate. However, SOS group made a copy before the removal and placed it right back up on the SOS website while describing to its nearly 1,700 visitors how the school board had attempted to censor JEB’s once honorable story. The copied video can be seen here.
In an act reminiscent of JEB Stuart’s audaciously wiring a complaint to the U.S. Army’s Quartermaster General complaining about the poor quality of the Union mules he has just captured, JEB students launched a counter campaign challenging the Fairfax County School board to demonstrate true leadership by changing its own name. They point out in their Change.Org petition that while JEB Stuart is historically notable for his brilliant military leadership in serving both the Union and South, it’s Lord Fairfax who made his wealth and name as notorious slave holder and slave trader.
Hypocrisy aside, it’s clear that the Lord Fairfax name and family crest which appears on every county service vehicle, flags and police cars (to name but a few) is certainly not a name fit to represent a school board. While the petition is only a few weeks old, it’s received a top15-perecent performance acknowledgement from Change.Org while its Facebook outreach had tallied 8,600 “people reached” to date (see Figure 1). Notably, neither of the Hollywood elites who started the JEB Stuart campaign has opted to sign off on the Lord Fairfax campaign.
Looking ahead, Fairfax County – through this school board action – finds itself at incredible financial risk in that by undertaking and giving validity to this unforced effort to change one name they’ll have set a precedent or a slippery slope for other high minded activists to latch on and seek changes at Fairfax or Lee High Schools, the city of Fairfax or even Falls Church. The multiple millions which will have to be diverted from true educational services will make the projected $700,000 cost to change the name of JEB Stuart high school just a drop in a potentially very large tax burden bucket.
The Lord Fairfax County School Board will be holding their next meeting on this important subject on July 28th.
Figure 1- Within only a few days, the petition to change Fairfax School Board's name has gained significant attention on Facebook and on Change.Org