Hanover County School Board To Discuss NAACP Lawsuit Over Confederate School Names Friday
In August, Virginia’s Hanover County NAACP chapter filed a federal lawsuit against the Hanover County School Board. That’s following years of advocacy work trying to convince school leaders to change the names of two schools, Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School.
Hanover County NAACP President Robert Barnette says the school board didn’t take those concerns seriously, and that the lawsuit is a result of their voices going unheard.
“We see these [Confederate school names] as remnants of segregation,” Barnette said.
The lawsuit argues that the school board has a responsibility to remove vestiges of segregation.
“And we are saying that the board has failed to do this since the 1960s when they chose these names that told African American students that they were unwelcome in Hanover County,” he said.
Barnette says it’s not just the names of the schools, but the mascots – too, the rebels and Confederates.
“And so it put African Americans in a very peculiar situation, having to really identify with Confederate generals,” Barnette said.
They’re arguing that the schools’ names violate the U.S. Constitution.
“Forcing public school children to use Confederate names as a condition of participation forces them to engage in speech they disavow, in violation of their First Amendment right to be free of compelled speech,” the lawsuit reads. “Forcing African American students to attend a school rife with Confederate imagery and veneration creates a school environment that denies students of color an equal opportunity to an education and violates their right to Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The school board has scheduled a closed-door meeting Friday afternoon to discuss the lawsuit with their legal counsel. VPM reached out to all members of the school board for comment Thursday but did not hear back from anyone. School board Chairman Roger Bourassa responded by email Friday morning to say that school board members cannot comment on pending litigation.