Restoring History: County Votes To Put Confederate Generals Names Back On Schools

By Darren Nagel | Monday, 23 May 2022 05:15
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Two Virginia schools that had been named after Confederate generals and soldiers and which changed their names in the wake of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, are reverting back to their earlier names.

The Shenandoah County School Board changed Stonewall Jackson High School to Mountain View High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School to Honey Run Elementary School in Quicksburg, following a board vote in July 2020 and final approval in January 2021.

However, a petition was sent less than two years later to gauge the strength of feeling on regressing the schools to their original names.

Vocal opposition came from community members and alumni, with more than 4,000 people signing the petition to switch the names back.

The topic was discussed at length by the six-member school board during a meeting last week.

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Some new board members felt the decision to change names was rushed and did not consider the community's opinions.

Board Vice-Chair Dennis Barlow said those who were in favor of changing the names were outsiders who are "creepy," "elitist" and from "the dark side," he told NBC News.

He claims the school board's choice to change names in the first place was "undemocratic and unfair" stating that he believed General Stonewall Jackson to be a "gallant commander."

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"Most people who vote for elected officials then count on them to do the right thing on their behalf," said board member Cynthia Walsh who does not believe the names should be changed back.

"We do have a representative democracy. We don't have a direct democracy," she added.

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"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," Walsh said.

"I suggested a compromise: adding a third" option — I did not agree to the name change but I do not think we should change it back — "and that's where we left it that night, but we didn't vote on it," Walsh said.

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"In my opinion if you're doing it countywide, you might as well throw the students out because they don't care," said Kyle Gutshall who was elected to the board in this year is a recent high school graduate.

Other board, however, members were adamant that the decision has to first be what's right for the students.

"No. 1 criteria: what is best for kids. The kids we'e going to teach today and the next 25 years," said board member Andrew Keller.

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