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School Board Restoring Confederate Leaders School Names Leads To Lawsuit By NAACP

The Virginia chapter of the NAACP and five students filed a federal lawsuit against the Shenandoah County school board for restoring Confederate military leaders' names to two public schools. The lawsuit, announced Tuesday, claims the board's decision created a discriminatory environment for Black students, violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Education Opportunities Act. The board's 5-1 vote on May 10 reversed a 2020 decision to rename schools previously associated with Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Turner Ashby, Confederate leaders during the Civil War. As a result, Mountain View High School reverted to Stonewall Jackson High School, and Honey Run Elementary School reverted to Ashby-Lee Elementary School.

"My belief is the Shenandoah County School Board reaffirmed their commitment to White supremacy and the celebration of a race-based rebellion against the United States of America with their vote to name public schools after military leaders of the Confederate States of America," the Rev. Cozy Bailey, the president of the Virginia NAACP, said in a statement.

This lawsuit follows a campaign by the conservative Coalition for Better Schools, which argued for restoring the Confederate names to honor community heritage and respect the majority's wishes.

"When students walk through the halls of renamed Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School, they will do so with inescapable reminders of Confederate legacies that enslaved and discriminated against African-descended people. This community deserves better," Bailey added.

Name changes occurred in 2020 amid a national racial reckoning after George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer, which led to the removal of many Confederate symbols and statues. In contrast, the recent decision reflects ongoing sociopolitical divides over Confederate iconography in the U.S. The anti-Black shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 and the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, further fueled debates about public displays of Confederate symbols.

The lawsuit is supported by the Washington Lawyers' Committee and Covington & Burling LLP, representing the NAACP and the students' families. The school board's chairman, Dennis C. Barlow, did not comment on the lawsuit. Conservative groups continue to challenge efforts to address race in educational settings, pushing against classroom discussions on racial identity and diversity initiatives.

The decision by the Shenandoah County school board to restore Confederate leaders' names to public schools is deeply disappointing and a step backward in our collective journey toward justice and equality. This action not only dishonors the painful history of racial oppression but also creates a hostile environment for Black students and their families, perpetuating the legacy of discrimination. We must stand with those who fight for justice and ensure that our schools reflect values of equality and respect for all. Let's push for a future where public institutions honor the dignity of every individual and where our actions today build a foundation of true equity for generations to come.

Link: NBCNews


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