Students sue School Board over lack of transparency


The “Lee” portion of the school’s name is on full display in the front of the building. The School Board committed in June to renaming the school by fall of 2019.

Three Washington-Lee students have filed suit against the school board after it committed to changing the school’s name on June 7, citing a lack of transparency and communication with the community as reason for the lawsuit. Although a new name has not been set, the board agreed on a deadline for the name to be in effect by September 2019. The plaintiffs say they feel this decision was rushed.

The students who filed an injunction, including seniors William Johnson and Sydney Dodini, are concerned that the board did not consult the community about their plans to change the name. They claim that in renaming the school with limited public input, they broke Policy Implementation Procedure F-6.1, which states that a procedure to rename the school must “include representation from the occupants of the school/building, the immediate neighborhood, and the broader Arlington community.”

According to the three students and their attorney, Jonathon Moseley, despite the school board asking for a committee to discuss renaming the school, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)  requests showed that no such committee met. “There isn’t a legal basis to keep the school board from picking a name that it wants, but like any government body, there are procedures that they have to go through,” Moseley said in an interview with The Kojo Nnamdi Show on August 8. “The students feel that [the process] was rushed, and that there needs to be more community discussion on [this issue].”

Senior Sydney Dodini says she understands the reasons behind changing the name, but would like more accountability from the school board. “With an issue so complex and involving so many different people, emotions, and economic challenges, I felt strongly that the community, including current students of W-L, needed to have a voice in order to make sure this process was done ethically with civility and transparency,” Dodini said.

However, as of August 17, Dodini officially pulled out of the lawsuit, citing misrepresentation of her cause and negative feedback. “I agreed to participate only to bring attention to the rushed process and lack of community involvement on such a complex issue,” Dodini said. “Sadly, the conversation in the media has focused solely on the the divided lines of race and the preservation of history.”

Ms. Linda Erdos, Assistant Superintendent of School and Community Relations, stated that the School Board and staff do not think it would be appropriate to comment as they are named in the lawsuit, but that the School Board’s decision to start renaming the school was appropriate.

Even though the issue of the school’s changing name has been decided on, controversy still brews. The issue seems to be complex and costly, so the school has asked for input from students, parents, staff and alumni to help choose a name, and a committee of these members of the community, including one student from each grade level, four alumni and three parents, among others, is being formed.

“I trust that with civil discourse, we can come together as a community to make a decision on the name of the school that honors our community.” Dodini said.