Community members who live near a new county public school in Rockville have chosen Lillian Brown Elementary as their favorite potential name.
A group of 13 people in the area around Richard Montgomery Elementary School #5 held two meetings in recent weeks to discuss the name suggestions offered by the school board and add a couple of their own. The Board of Education will consider the committee’s recommendation Thursday as members vote to assign a name to the school, slated to open in September.
A staff report for the board states that Lillian Brown was a Rockville native who was not able to attend junior or senior high school in Montgomery County because of racial segregation. She became an educator who taught during desegregation in Montgomery County schools and worked at Woodlawn and Beall elementary schools. She won the Legacy of Excellence Award from Bowie State University and the Montgomery County Board of Education’s Pioneer Award for Distinguished Service to Public Education. In the 1970s, she co-authored a book on the history of Montgomery County’s black public schools, according to the staff report. She died in 2002.
However, there’s also a push to name the new school after Bayard Rustin, a gay man who was a leader in the civil rights movement. Parents of LGBTQ families living near the new school said few institutions are named after openly gay individuals and have argued that calling the new school Bayard Rustin Elementary would send a powerful message. The name ranked fourth on the naming committee’s list of options, but the discussion has generated interest far outside the county’s borders.
Mark Eckstein Bernardo, a Rockville parent who’s advocated for naming the school after Rustin, said U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia and Rustin’s longtime partner, Walter Naegle, have contacted him to express support.
A representative from the American Civil Liberties Union and Ruby Corado, a transgender woman who founded Casa Ruby in D.C., are also speaking in favor of naming the school for Rustin, Bernardo said.
After Lillian Brown Elementary, the naming committee’s second choice for the new school name was Dogwood Elementary School, in acknowledgement of a park near the school at 332 W. Edmonston Drive. The remaining four names were school board suggestions recognizing famous local and national figures.
Here is the full list:
- Lillian Brown Elementary School
- Dogwood Elementary School
- Emily Catherine Edmonson Elementary School
- Bayard Rustin Elementary School
- Josiah Henson Elementary School
- Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School
Bethany Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.