School Board Votes to Bring Back Confederate Names

Decision by Virginia's Shenandoah County school board came despite pushback
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2024 6:07 AM CDT
School Board Votes to Bring Back Confederate Names
In this Dec. 20, 2018, file photo, the 1935 statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, by sculptor Alexander Phimister, sits in storage at Hensley Field, the former Naval Air Station on the west side of Mountain Creek Lake in Dallas.   (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP, File)

A Virginia school board has become the first in the country to restore school names honoring Confederate generals shortly after removing them. The school board in Shenandoah County, Virginia, on Friday approved a proposal to rename Mountain View High School to Stonewall Jackson High School and Honey Run Elementary School to Ashby-Lee Elementary School, per NBC News. The board initially stripped the names of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby from the schools in 2020 amid a racial reckoning. However, the conservative group Coalition for Better School petitioned to have the names reinstated, saying it was "essential to honor our community's heritage and respect the wishes of the majority."

A similar measure failed in 2022 with a 3-3 vote, per the BBC. The new measure passed 5-1 early Friday following a meeting that began Thursday night. CNN notes none of the current members held a seat on the board in 2020. Board members said the 2020 decision, which came under the direction of then-Gov. Ralph Northam with a goal of "condemning racism and affirming the division's commitment to an inclusive school environment for all," was rushed and made without public input. One member, Gloria E. Carlineo, said the earlier board members had "exploited the tragedy of COVID" to make "a wrongful action that has deeply divided our community," per CNN. Some 80 people spoke at the meeting, "most of them against restoring the old names," per NBC.

"Why are we here tonight to go back to a time in history that was very cruel, where hatred and racism continued throughout this county and throughout the United States?" said Gene Kilby, the son of late civil rights activist James Wilson Kilby, per CNN. "Is this the type of legacy that you want to put in Shenandoah County's public school buildings?" Local resident Neil Thorne said the change "will indelibly damage our community's reputation," per the BBC. One woman in favor of restoring the old names asked board members to remember Confederate leaders "were intent on protecting the land, the buildings and the lives of those under attack." The school district spent more than $304,000 to rebrand the schools in 2021. The board said this time private donations would be used. (More Confederacy stories.)

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