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‘Reminders of Confederate legacies’: Shenandoah County NAACP sues school board

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The Shenandoah County School Board is being sued by the NAACP Virginia State Conference on behalf of the Shenandoah County NAACP.

The lawsuit, as reported by WHSV, alleges discrimination against Black students in the school system and comes after the school board decided on May 9, 2024, to change the names of schools back to previous Confederate names.

The Virginia NAACP filed the lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of NAACP members, including students in Shenandoah County Schools.

Mountain View High School’s name will be changed back to Stonewall Jackson High School and Honey Run Elementary School’s name will revert back to Ashby-Lee Elementary. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby served in the American Civil War as generals on the side of the Confederate States of America. Ashby served under Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862.

In 2020, the school board voted to remove the names of Confederate leaders in response to race relations across the United States after a Minnesota police officer murdered George Floyd, a Black man. The school board’s resolution intended to convey “condemning racism and affirming the division’s commitment to an inclusive school environment for all.”

According to the NAACP’s lawsuit, First and 14th amendment rights, as well as Title VI of the Civil rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act have been violated and create an “unlawful and discriminatory environment for Black students” in Shenandoah County.

“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,” Virginia NAACP President Rev. Cozy Bailey said in the press release. “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.”

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee and Covington & Burlington LLP are representing the Virginia NAACP and families of Shenandoah County Schools. A press conference yesterday shared information with Shenandoah County residents about suing the school board. Members of the NAACP spoke about fighting the decisions the school board made regarding the names of the two elementary schools.

“The world is watching to see if this variety of the seeds of hate and disenfranchisement will take root and return Shenandoah County and the Commonwealth of Virginia to the days where racial exclusion was the law of the land,” Bailey said.

Related stories:

Shenandoah County returning names of Jackson, Lee, Ashby to public schools – Augusta Free Press

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.