New School Named After Bayard Rustin, Who Is He?

Photo courtesy of MCPS

During a passionate discussion that divided the Montgomery County school board, Richard Montgomery Elementary School #5 will be named after Bayard Rustin, a civil rights organizer and an openly gay black man.

The vote was 6-2 at Thursday’s meeting.

Back in February, the Board of Education suggested four names to a School Naming Advisory Committee to be considered. In what the school district calls a “naming process,” the 13-member committee included parents of students who will attend the school, community members, and the school’s principal Rachel DuBois. The committee was tasked with gaining input from residents on the new school’s name to recommend to the Board of Education for final approval.

After an approximately two-month process,  Lillian Brown, an author, community activist and educator, was the name presented to the board during Thursday’s meeting. Brown was the granddaughter of slaves and was not able to attend junior or senior high school in Montgomery County because of racial segregation. She was the principal and sole teacher at the Germantown Colored Elementary School before finishing her career as public school teacher at Beall Elementary School in Rockville.

After hearing emotional testimony from residents, school Board Member Patricia O’Neil moved to name the school after Rustin.

Rustin is known to have a played a major role in the Civil Rights and Equality movements. He’s widely  known for organizing, coordinating and marketing the 1963 March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Filled with emotions, Jill Ortman-Fouse seconded the motion stating, “What can be more inspiring than showing our students that with everything stacked up against them, they can still persevere.”

Naming the school after Rustin did come with opposition from some school board members.

Jeanette Dixon voted against naming the school after him along with School Board President Michael Durso.

Dixon’s reason was due to technicalities with the naming process.

“I’m not voting against the name,” she said. “I feel strongly about listening to the community and doing what the community asked us to do.”

“I’m glad that the board is choosing to honor Bayard Rustin,” said longtime resident and urban planner, Dan Reed. “In being true to himself and standing up for his convictions was an inspiration to me as a student, and sets an example for all students in MCPS. Especially queer and questioning students.”

The school, at 332 W. Edmonston Drive in Rockville, opens in September of 2018 and is expected to alleviate capacity issues in the Richard Montgomery Cluster.

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Mitti Hicks

About Mitti Hicks

Mitti Hicks is a multimedia journalist and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She is passionate about telling stories that impact our community and may be reached at and on Twitter @mittimegan.


6 Responses to “New School Named After Bayard Rustin, Who Is He?”

  1. Avatar
    On April 13, 2018 at 9:00 am responded with... #

    What a wonderful inspirational thing indeed for this school to be named for Bayard Rustin, who such a hero to so many communities & was tragically shunned simply because of whom he loved. In short, Mr. Rustin inspired the Freedom Riders, spearheaded the March on Washington in ’63, & literally brought the ideal of non-violence to Dr. King directly from his interaction with Gandhi himself.
    This brave act by the Board of Education will be a true inspiration for your students & your greater community allowing them to feel like they are seen & heard. respected & indeed loved, something that Mr. Rustin seldom received in his public life but so very much deserved… as do we all.

  2. Avatar
    On April 13, 2018 at 12:35 pm responded with... #

    This is not a good name for the (or ANY) Elementary School. Community center? sure, why not!
    Lillian Brown would be a better fitting name for the Elementary school and after reading up on both people, I would want my children looking up to her as a role model instead of Bayard Rustin. Yes, we all want good role models for our kids and they have both made an impact in the world but this man is not a good example of representing ALL kids. To have his name woven on our children’s learning center is not inspirational whatsoever, this is embarrassing for our community.

    • Avatar
      On April 13, 2018 at 1:42 pm responded with... #

      You give no reason as to why you feel the school should not be named after Rustin. One can only conclude that you are homophobic. All students should be able to identify and be inspired by his commitment to social justice.

      • Avatar
        On April 13, 2018 at 5:44 pm responded with... #

        I respect and appreciate peoples views and opinions no matter where they are in life. My children’s pediatrician is GLBTQ and I respect him and have no problem with him helping my children. My sister is also GLBTQ. Define homophobic? Do I hurt, avoid, or attack these people? Never! I don’t agree with that way of life but won’t tell them to stop, it’s up to them. And if they ask my opinion, I will speak honestly, not to bash or prove my point but state why and what I believe. I’m not alone on this and think we should voice our opinions in a respectful way. I don’t agree with this decision that they name the elementary school Bayard Rustin. I don’t mind if the school hires GLBTQ teachers, but having that school name leaves a cloud over the school. Obviously, this is not a progressive building block for the community.

        • Avatar
          On April 14, 2018 at 2:08 pm responded with... #

          You say you don’t agree with that “way of life.” That alone tells us that you consider it to be something negative. You want points for not hurting, avoiding or attacking “these people?” None of us should be hurting, avoiding or attacking anyone. Having the school named after a civil rights leader “leaves a cloud over the school?” You have a negative opinion of LGBT people and think they are deserving of less recognition for their accomplishments than others, and that it’s “embarrassing” for something to be associated with them. That’s what homophobia means.

  3. Avatar
    On April 15, 2018 at 12:56 am responded with... #

    Bayard had to fight for both civil and gay rights.

    “Surely, I must at all times attempt to obey the law of the state. But when the will of God and the will of the state conflict, I am compelled to follow the will of God.”
    –Bayard Rustin

    I like what Bayard says on ‘following the will of God’ but the Bible is clear about homosexuality and it is not in line with God’s will if he continued to live as such. Now I know it’s easy to call me a bigot for even mentioning his quote of God, and I don’t want to start a religious argument but there are standards and truths you hold on to and don’t compromise toward if you call yourself a believer, or say you ‘follow the will of God’.

    “Martin Luther King, with whom I worked very closely, became very distressed when a number of the ministers working for him wanted him to dismiss me from his staff because of my homosexuality.”
    –Bayord Rustin

    Did the civil rights ministers just write Bayard off or did they confront him and try to love and help him? I don’t know. This is not a light topic and I do apologize for words that offend anyone. Those who believe in God are called to adhere to what the scriptures say, and submit to biblical doctrine if they call themselves followers of God.
    Everyone has freewill to discern whether obeying scripture over culture is right or wrong. The ministers had to dismiss Bayard because there isn’t an intersection on homosexuality and God from a Biblical perspective.

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