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Virginia School Board Votes to Restore Names of Confederate Leaders to Schools

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, a school board in Virginia stripped the names of Confederate military figures from two schools.

The school board in Shenandoah County, Virginia, early Friday approved a proposal that will restore the names of Confederate military leaders to two public schools.

The measure, which passed 5-1, reverses a previous board’s decision in 2020 to change the names of schools that had been linked to Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby, three men who led the pro-slavery Southern states during the Civil War. 

Mountain View High School will go back to the name Stonewall Jackson High School. Honey Run Elementary School will go back to the name Ashby-Lee Elementary School.

The board stripped their names after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd, fueling a national racial reckoning. The calls for racial justice and equity inspired some communities to remove Confederate symbolism and statues of Confederate generals.

But in Shenandoah County, the conservative group Coalition for Better Schools petitioned school officials to reinstate the names of Jackson, Lee and Ashby. “We believe that revisiting this decision is essential to honor our community’s heritage and respect the wishes of the majority,” the coalition wrote in an April 3 letter to the board, according to a copy posted online.

The board considered a similar motion in 2022, but it failed because of a tie vote.

Four years ago, a previous incarnation of the board moved to change the names in a 5-1 vote, according to minutes from a meeting held July 9, 2020. The minutes say that the goal of the resolution was "condemning racism and affirming the division’s commitment to an inclusive school environment for all."

The current members said the 2020 board's decision was made hastily and without appropriate community input. About 80 people spoke Thursday before the board's vote — more than 50 of them against restoring the old names.

"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," one student said in a direct appeal to the board members, later adding: "I think it is unfair to me that restoring the names is up for discussion."

In the last decade, Confederate iconography has provoked intense sociopolitical divides across the nation.