Virginia NAACP sues school board for vote restoring Confederate names – USA TODAY

A civil rights organization has filed suit against a Virginia school board, claiming that Black students’ educations will be negatively impacted by the board’s recent vote to restore names of Confederate officials on two schools.
The Virginia NAACP filed the federal lawsuit against the Shenandoah County School Board Tuesday alleging that restoring names of Confederate officials endorses discriminatory and harmful messages against Black students.
The board voted during theMay 9 meeting, 5-1, to change the names of Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary back to Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School.
“When Black students are compelled to attend schools that glorify the leaders and ideals of the Confederacy, they are subject to a racially discriminatory educational environment, which has significant psychological, academic, and social effects,” the lawsuit alleges.
Ashley Joyner Chavous, an attorney at Covington and Burling, one of two law firms representing the NAACP branch that filed the suit, said the district move was taken despite strong objection from the community. “There was an extensive comment period where the community, parents, teachers and students expressed how horrible they thought the names were,” she said.
The lawsuit seeks to remove the Confederate names, mascots and other references to the Confederacy from the two schools. Marja Plater, senior counsel at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which also represents the NAACP chapter, said the community worked extensively with the school board to come up with Mountain View and Honey Run as the new names and the board should respect that process.
As of Thursday afternoon, the schools were still named Honey Run Elementary School and Mountain View High School on the district website.
Four students and their parents are named as plaintiffs in the NAACP’s lawsuit. It alleges attending schools with Confederate names negatively impact their ability to get an education, damage their self-esteem and violates their rights under the First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.
“It’s likely to only amount to more acts of racism in the community,” Chavous said. “We’ve heard from several folks about how these names make people feel.”
“The school board shouldn’t establish any names for the Confederacy or what the Confederacy represents,” she added.
Shenandoah School Board Chairman Dennis Barlow didn’t immediately respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment. According to the May 9 board meeting minutes, he said he doesn’t think Black soldiers he served alongside in the Army would consider attending a school called Stonewall Jackson High School to be their biggest threat.
As of Thursday, a lawyer wasn’t listed for the school board, according to U.S. District Court records.
The Coalition for Better Schools, a conservative group, led the effort to restore the names. They said in an April letter to the board that Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and Cmdr. Turney Ashby have historical ties to Virginia and its history. Dozens of school districts and politicians, however, removed Confederate names and monuments from public view in 2020 to eliminate symbols of racism, according to a 2022 USA TODAY analysis.
Experts previously told USA TODAY they think it was the first time any entity restored Confederate names it voted to remove. They added the move could be a catalyst for others to follow as a movement grows further supporting Confederate names and monuments.
“Despite the large public outcry against Confederate monuments in 2020, there’s still a lot of people who support the practice, or at least, don’t understand why it’s a problem,” said Carole Emberton, a history professor at the University at Buffalo.
Contact reporter Krystal Nurse at [email protected]. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, @KrystalRNurse.

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