For the first time, the Board of Education will be conducting a review of all 206 Montgomery County school names. This follows county council president Nancy Navarro’s recommendation that the Board change Colonel E. Brooke Lee Middle School’s name in February.
The middle school’s namesake set up the first land-use zoning system in Montgomery County but its racially restrictive policies prevented African Americans from buying or renting homes in subdivisions, Navarro said.
The community is currently in the process of renaming the school.
The Board decided to review school names after Navarro’s suggestion and student journalists at Watkins Mill High School discovered last year that three high schools were named after slave owners Board member Pat O’Neill said.
“We want to know if in our list of potential names there are so to speak ‘skeletons in the closet’ or if they’re worthy names to name a school,” O’Neill said. “The same is true for existing schools.”
There isn’t any specific criteria to determine whether a school’s name is appropriate or not. Rather, it’s based on community input.
To rename a school, the Board follows a set of guidelines, where schools must be named after either a distinguished person, geographical location or another name the community suggests that the Board must then approve.
MCPS gives preference to names of deceased individuals who could serve as role models for students, O’Neill said.
Freshman Alex Masi Fleytas supports the Board’s move to reevaluate all school names.
“You want your school name to be something you can be proud of and inspiring,” Masi Fleytas said. “Like Walt Whitman—he’s a poet and we learn about him in English class. But you don’t want your school name to be something that’s racist or promotes ideals that you don’t support.”