School Notes: Emotions Flow During Testimony about Naming New School for Bayard Rustin

Plus: Local students play in all-star basketball game hosted by coaches association


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Rockville parents Thursday evening presented emotional testimony in support of naming a new elementary school after Bayard Rustin, a gay civil rights leader.

A committee tasked with helping select the school’s name is considering Rustin and three other historic figures—Mary McLeod Bethune, Emily Catherine Edmonson and Josiah Henson—as possible options. A group of parents whose children will attend the new school, slated to open in September, has advocated for choosing Rustin, saying that the decision would send a message to students from LGBTQ families and to the broader community.

“In my opinion, it would be great for MCPS to honor a black gay man who made such important contributions to the civil rights movement. It’s important for children’s sense of self-worth to see themselves represented in their schools,” said Lucinda Grinnell, a professor of LGBTQ history whose kindergartner will attend the new school.

But Grinnell said she’s been dismayed by some of the online discussion on the naming of Richard Montgomery Elementary School #5. On a Facebook page dedicated to talking about the new school, one person cited inaccurate information about Rustin that portrayed him in a negative light, she said. Grinnell noted that others have argued it’s inappropriate to talk about gay people with elementary-age students.

“This kind of statement marginalizes as well as effectively makes invisible children who are a part of LGBTQ families and children who may identify as LGBTQ themselves,” she said.

Lily Qi, a candidate for state delegate in District 15, made a similar point during her turn testifying before the school board.

People who question the propriety of naming an elementary school after a gay man “are implying that there is something about gayness that compromises the innocence of our children,” she said. “So let me be very clear: There is nothing vulgar or scandalous about being gay. The sooner we can begin these conversations, the more effective they will be.”

Qi said her son, a Richard Montgomery High School graduate, came out as gay the summer before he began college. He said he’d waited to tell her because it was difficult to imagine himself as a happy, gay man; Qi said he’d been affected by the scarcity of affirming role models.

“It is not easy for me to come here to talk about an aspect of my personal life,” said Qi, her voice breaking. “But this is a historical opportunity for Montgomery County to live up to our community values, as a community where everyone can feel connected and can thrive.”

The school board is slated to discuss recommendations from the naming committee during an April 12 meeting.

State basketball coaches association hosts inaugural all-star game

Montgomery County students were selected to play in a senior all-star game that was hosted by the Maryland Basketball Coaches Association on Saturday.

The inaugural event at River Hill High School in Clarksville began with the girls contest. Caitlyn Clendenin of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and Erin Green, Julia Hobbs, Kelliann Lee and Madeleine Thompson of Poolesville High School were scheduled to play in the game.

Players for the boys game included Mason Green of Damascus, according to a news release.

Bethany Rodgers can be reached at bethany.rodgers@bethesdamagazine.com.

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