Fitz Thomas GoFundMe

The Thomas family, with the late Fitz Alexander Campbell Thomas at left.

Riverside High School’s football facilities will be named Fitz Alexander Campbell Thomas Stadium and FACT Field after a unanimous Loudoun County School Board vote Tuesday night.

The action honors the memory of the late Fitz Thomas, who drowned in June at the age of 16 after attempting to swim across the confluence of Goose Creek and the Potomac River, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

Board member Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn District) made the motion, which Jeff Morse (Dulles District) seconded. Tuesday’s public comment section, as well as that of the Oct. 13 meeting, included thanks from RHS students in anticipation of the vote.

Earlier this month, Mahedavi presented the board with a draft resolution for the renaming, which resulted from a request by RHS Principal Douglas Anderson on behalf of the school community.

Per the newly-passed resolution, more than 6,300 students, employees and other community members supported the new name “as a way to honor and memorialize Mr. Campbell Thomas for his contribution to the community.”

One public commenter, Riverside senior Christian Yohannes, was one of three students to have written a statement included in the official naming request. He remarked that, pending board approval, the RHS football facilities would be the first in the county to include a stadium or field named after an African American.

“Although we will not be yelling [Thomas’s] name from the stands, to have those very stands named after him this year would be pretty cool, in my opinion,” Yohannes said from behind the podium. “It has been a pleasure to lend a hand in making this happen. The family and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for honoring my best friend.”

Mahedavi later cited Yohannes’s and others’ comments when speaking to his motion.

“You have heard of the support of the many students who came in and spoke about what this naming means to them,” he said. “I think this is an all-student-led effort from start to finish, supported by the principal … I think this would be an accomplishment for the students who have put their mind to it, to make a change, to achieve that.”

At a previous meeting of the School Board’s Finance & Facilities Committee, Leslee King (Broad Run District) made a successful motion to wait to present the item to the whole board until the investigation into Thomas’s death was complete. However, she said Tuesday night she has since spoken with authorities, who “found no malice” in the incident.

“Therefore, I will support the naming because of the tremendous outreach and support that has been given,” King added.

Thomas’s death resulted in widespread mourning in Loudoun County, as well as substantial support for his family, including mother Michelle Thomas, president of the Loudoun NAACP.

Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge District) addressed public queries as to why previous School Boards have not moved to name other LCPS facilities after deceased students. Serotkin, who joined the School Board in January, cited the fact that Anderson submitted an official request on behalf of his school, which has not been the case in some previous instances.

He went on to reference previous student deaths, including that of Lindsey Carmello, a Lovettsville 12-year-old who died after a tree fell on the SUV she was riding in. Serotkin said he passes by Carmello’s roadside memorial on Purcellville Road almost every day.

“Over the past five years, we’ve had an average of seven students pass away each year from illness, accident, suicide or murder. Each one is a tragedy beyond comprehension,” he said. “We can’t name stadiums after every student who dies because we would run out of stadiums.”

Serotkin added the Finance & Facilities Committee has also recently discussed the creation of a memorial honoring all deceased LCPS students, saying he “hope[s] we continue that discussion after doing this naming tonight.”

Thomas’s death resulted in widespread mourning in Loudoun County, as well as substantial support for his family, including mother Michelle Thomas, president of the Loudoun NAACP.

Michelle Thomas has since collaborated with the Hope Floats foundation to launch a scholarship in her son’s memory, which would aim to offer swim lessons to children from disadvantaged families.

Tuesday’s Loudoun County School Board meeting is available to view in full at vimeo.com/472696026..

(2) comments

jke

Horrible!

Northerner

Wonderful!

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