Virginia school board may bring back old names honoring Confederate officers

Virginia school board may bring back old names honoring Confederate officers

After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 set off massive protests in the United States and many other countries, the Shenandoah County School Board in Virginia voted to change the names of two public schools that were named after Confederate officers. But now, according to NBC News, that board is considering going back to the old names.

In 2020, Stonewall Jackson High School became Mountain View High School, and Ashby-Lee Elementary School became Honey Run Elementary School. Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. Stonewall Jackson and Col. Turner Ashby, Jr. were high-ranking officers in the Confederate Army during the 1860s.

At a meeting in mid-May, according to NBC News reporters Elisha Fieldstadt and Maya Brown, Shenandoah County School Board Vice Chair Dennis Barlow announced that 4000 people had signed a petition calling for the schools’ old names to be resorted. Barlow was highly critical of those who pushed for the name changes in 2020, slamming them as “creepy” and “elitist” as well as from “the dark side.” Moreover, Barlow described Jackson (who died of pneumonia in 1863) as a “gallant commander.”

But another member of the Shenandoah County School Board, Cynthia Walsh, is opposed to changing the names back and believes that Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School should continue to have those names. At the meeting, Walsh told her colleagues, “Most people who vote for elected officials then count on them to do the right thing on their behalf. We do have a representative democracy. We don’t have a direct democracy.”

Walsh went on to say, “Times have changed, the makeup of our schools has changed. And I sincerely believe that revisiting the name change is not what’s best for kids.”

Virginia was among the southern states that was part of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. In modern-day Virginia, there has been a considerable amount of debate over whether or not Confederate monuments should be displayed on public property — especially after Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, on May 25, 2020.

Proponents of the name changes, including Black Lives Matter activists, argued that African-American students shouldn’t have to attend schools named after Confederate officers who defended slavery during the 19th Century. And some activists argued that asking Black taxpayers to support, with their tax dollars, schools named after Confederate officers would be like asking Jewish taxpayers to support a school named “Josef Mengele High.”

According to U.S. News & World Report, enrollment at Mountain View High School in Stafford, Virginia is 69% White, 11% Black, 18% Hispanic and 2.9% Asian.

“After Floyd’s death,” Fieldstadt and Maya Brown note, “statues, monuments, schools and buildings named for Confederate leaders became a focal point of the racial justice movement around the country. A number of the statues and monuments have come down…. The (Shenandoah County School) Board decided, at the meeting, that they would poll constituents on whether they believe the names should be changed back. But the Board could not settle on whether to poll only the residents who live within the schools in question, or the whole area.”

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