Virginia School Board to Bring Back Names of Confederate Leaders to Schools

NTD Newsroom
By NTD Newsroom
May 10, 2024US News
Virginia School Board to Bring Back Names of Confederate Leaders to Schools
Crews remove the torso of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, one of the country's largest remaining monuments to the Confederacy, on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Va., on Sept. 8, 2021. (Steve Helber/AP Photo)

The Shenandoah County school board in Virginia approved the decision to restore the names of Confederate military leaders to two public schools on May 10. The Mountain View High School and the Honey Run Elementary School will go back to being named Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School, respectively, after the Confederate leaders Stonewall Jackson, Turner Ashby, and Robert E. Lee.

The two public schools in Shenandoah County, Virginia, changed their names in 2020 in the wake of national outrage over the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The incident prompted numerous communities to get rid of Confederate iconography, symbolism, and statues.

The motion to restore the original names of the schools was proposed by the Coalition for Better Schools, a conservative group, in April this year. The Coalition submitted a written proposal to the Shenandoah County school board on April 3, which stated that the group had conducted a detailed survey regarding the motion which indicated “overwhelming support for this restoration.” According to the letter, 91.3 percent of the respondents agreed that the schools should be renamed Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School.

“We understand that the decision to rename these schools was made in response to discussions surrounding Confederate symbols. However, we believe that revisiting this decision is essential to honor our community’s heritage and respect the wishes of the majority,” the letter from the Coalition further states. “We kindly request that the School Board move forward with the restoration of the school names immediately placing this matter on the school board agenda and beginning the dialogue with community members, including alumni, parents, and students.”

School Board’s Decision Sees Backlash

The Shenandoah County school board approved the motion on May 10 with a 5-1 majority. However, the decision was not welcomed without resistance, with several members of the community taking the stand to voice their concerns at a school board meeting on May 9.

“If you vote to restore the name of Stonewall Jackson in 2024, you will be resurrecting an act of 1959 that is forever rooted in massive resistance and Jim Crow segregation,” one individual said at the meeting.

“Some people in the county feel that the initial name change stripped them of their Democratic processes while advocating for the honoring of an individual that stripped African-Americans of their Democratic rights,” said Hannah Keen, another member of the community.

“I am a black student, and if the names are restored, I would have to represent a man that fought for my ancestors to be slaves. That makes me feel like I’m disrespecting my ancestors and going against what my family and I believe,” said an eighth-grade student at Stonewall Jackson High School. “I think it is unfair to me that restoring the names is up for discussion.”

In contrast, however, many took to social media to voice their support for the school board’s decision to restore the original names of the two schools. One user wrote on X, “Shenandoah County did the unthinkable: they restored the names of American heroes to their schools! The tide is turning. Your voice matters. Keep fighting!”

Another user replied to the post, saying, “This is wonderful. Not much surprises me anymore but this sure did! Glad people r standing up & pushing back on these ‘officials.’”

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