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Students Successfully Campaign to Rename School After John Lewis

8/31/2020Staff Article

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The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis was known for advocating for “good trouble”—pushing beyond conventional boundaries and confronting authority in the name of social justice and human rights.

Students at Robert E. Lee High School in Fairfax County, Va., took that advice to heart last month, pushing to rename their school John R. Lewis High School.

The students said they felt the name honoring the Confederate general didn’t reflect the diversity of its student body. Hispanic and Latino students comprise just over 45 percent of the school’s population, while about 24 percent of students are Asian, about 15 percent are white, and about 13 percent are Black. In response to the students’ name-change campaign, the Fairfax County School Board formally voted in July to rename the school after Lewis.

Lewis Spanish teacher Erik Manuel Giblin, a former Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights team member, said the name change reflects both Lewis’ and Robert F. Kennedy’s commitment to justice—a commitment shared by the school’s students, many of whom accompany him to the RFK Human Rights Awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., each year.

“By honoring his incredible legacy every day,” Giblin said, “we at John R. Lewis High will lay the critical foundation for each and every student to get into the kind of ‘good trouble’ that celebrates our rich diversity, secures a quality, dignified education, and creates meaningful change in the ‘spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love.’”

Read more about these inspiring students here.