HomeTop StoriesVirginia's school board votes to return Confederate names to two public schools

Virginia’s school board votes to return Confederate names to two public schools

An all-white school board in Virginia has voted to restore the names of Robert E Lee and other Confederate military leaders to two public schools, in response to the racial reckoning that followed the police killing of George Floyd.

The decision to restore Lee’s names Stonewall Jackson and Turner Ashby was taken Friday morning by the six-member Shenandoah County school board. Only one of the members voted against the resolution.

As a result of the vote, Mountain View High School will revert to its pre-2020 name, Stonewall Jackson High School, and Honey Run Elementary School will be renamed Ashby-Lee Elementary School – in honor of three men who broke new ground in leadership of trying to secede from the Union in defense of slavery.

The school board’s about-face is one of the sharpest examples of a nationwide backlash by conservative groups across the country against the changes implemented after the summer of protests in 2020 following the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis. At least 160 Confederate symbols were removed that year, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks such public icons.

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Sarah Kohrs, a Shenandoah County resident and parent, said, “While the world watched, the Shenandoah County School Board sent a terrible message.

“We regret the administration’s decision to push back and ‘honor’ Civil War figures who knowingly betrayed the United States and advocated slavery and segregation,” Kohrs added.

“This decision seems to be more about revenge, control and hatred than about legacy or due process. Looking ahead, the many good people of Shenandoah County will have to work even harder to ensure that our full history, good and bad, remains available to students and the public. Our fight for what is right is not over.”

The restoration of Confederate names in Shenandoah County followed a public debate at the school board in which 80 people spoke, mostly in opposition to the restoration, according to NBC News.

Among them was Alea Ogle, 13, who said that if Confederate names were restored, she would have to attend a school as a black student that recognized “a man who fought for my ancestors to be slaves.” That would make me feel disrespectful to my ancestors and going against what my family and I believe, which is that we should all be treated equally and that slavery is cruel and abominable.”

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The school board was under pressure from a local conservative group calling itself the Coalition for Better Schools. Last month it wrote a letter to the board requesting the return of the old school names.

“The legacy of Stonewall Jackson, while complex, remains an important part of our local history,” the group said. As for Lee, the commander of the Confederate States Army, and Confederate cavalry commander Ashby, they were described as “prominent Virginians and local heroes.”

The coalition claimed to have conducted a survey of local citizens showing that 91.3% wanted to return to the original school names, but did not provide information on how many people had taken part in the poll. “We believe that reviewing this decision is essential to honor the heritage of our community and respect the wishes of the majority,” the report said.

Despite the Conservatives’ emphasis on honoring history and heritage, the two schools in question were not founded until modern times. Stonewall Jackson High School opened in 1960.

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In 2022, the school board considered returning to the Confederate names, but on that occasion the votes to make the change were lacking. The board’s then vice-chairman and current chairman, Dennis Barlow, said during that debate that he saw Jackson as a “brave commander”, while those who had taken the step to reform the school names after Floyd were “creepy” in his eyes. goods. ”, “elitist” and “from the dark side”.

Melissa Hellmann contributed report

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