Posted on June 20, 2024

Confederate Names Make Comeback, Triggering Lawsuits

Lexi Lonas, The Hill, June 15, 2024

A Virginia school district was sued this week after it restored Confederate military names for two buildings, foreshadowing a broader battle that is heating up ahead of the election.

The Virginia NAACP sued the school board in Shenandoah County after it voted to change Mountain View High School to Stonewall Jackson High School and Honey Run Elementary back to Ashby Lee Elementary.

The NAACP argues in its federal lawsuit that students’ constitutional rights were violated by the district’s act of reverting back to Confederate names. It invoked the First Amendment and 14th Amendment in its lawsuit, saying it “prohibits racial discrimination in state-supported institutions.”

”By celebrating the memory of these traitors every time a child walked through the school doors, by embracing the cold wind of intolerance and division and insensitivity, the Shenandoah County School Board has resurrected the ghosts of the Jim Crow era,” NAACP Virginia State Conference President Cozy Bailey said.

The group asked the U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg to remove the Confederate names and mascots from the schools.

“This is directly linked to efforts to keep Black children out of school, to subjugate Black communities and keep them away from the benefits of education,” said Tyler Whittenberg, deputy director of the Opportunity to Learn program for the Advancement Project. “I have no doubt that this was the intent of the board members when making this decision.”

According to a tracker from Education Week, about 340 schools in 21 states around the U.S. have names based on Confederate figures.

“I think they are creating an inhospitable environment for students of color to really learn and thrive socially,” James Jones, assistant professor and director of the Center for Politics and Race in America at Rutgers University, said of the change in Virginia. “I do believe that this is a trend; I do believe that changing these things back to honor the Confederate is a trend that we are likely to see across the country.”