Shenandoah County School Board votes to remove Confederate leader names from school buildings

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 7:45 PM EDT
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SHENANDOAH COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - On Thursday night, the Shenandoah County School Board voted to remove the names of Confederate leaders from two of its schools.

The resolution on the school board’s agenda moved that the names of Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School be retired, in as well as the Rebel mascot at North Fork Middle School.

This is a continuation of a resolution passed last month by the board condemning racism and affirming the division’s commitment to an inclusive school environment.

A postponement was asked by school board member, Marty Helsley to bring the topic back up at the next school board meeting, but the board voted to reject it.

After the board went into a discussion the resolution was approved 5-1

Community members showed their support and opposition for the possibility of the name change for the schools and the mascot. Dozens sat in on the virtual meeting to speak their opinion during the public commenting period.

Dennis Artwood was one of many who sent letters to the school board requesting those names be removed from the buildings.

“Our school system needs to decide whether it’s going to get on the on-ramp to the interstate where so many other school districts in Virginia have already traveled,” Artwood said.

A petition was also created online with more than 2,000 signatures by Thursday’s meeting to make the change. Alumni of Stonewall Jackson High School like Sarah Kohrs spoke out and said its not about destroying anyone’s history of heritage but about how we honor those figures.

“I have relatives who fought in the Stonewall Brigade and when we think about it are we really honoring people by continuing to use generals and others of the Confederacy who were simply using the people in this community and destroying this community’s land,” Kohrs said.

Another petition was also created and circulated around the county against the change. Charles Streett said he signed the petition that had more than 3,000 signatures earlier this week. He said those names on the schools are important and a part of the community.

“If we want to try and tackle racism then we need to learn more about it, our school is in the Ashby Lee district which the elementary school is named from and we’ve got the New Market Battlefield in our backyard,” Streett said.

Mark Johnston, the superintendent of Shenandoah County schools, told WHSV a plan for the name change will be presented in August.

Copyright 2020 WHSV. All rights reserved.

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