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Shenandoah County returning names of Jackson, Lee, Ashby to public schools

Chris Graham
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The Shenandoah County School Board, in the name of taking a big step backwards, has decided to restore the names of Confederate military heroes Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby to two county schools.

The board voted 5-1 early Friday to restore the previous name for the high school, Stonewall Jackson High School, from the name approved by a previous iteration of the school board, Mountain View High School.

Honey Run Elementary School will revert to Ashby-Lee Elementary School.

The 2020 school board had also removed the names of Ashby and Lee from the elementary school.

That decision to rename the schools was made in the wake of the national reckoning on race following the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was choked to death by a Minnesota police officer.

The goal of the 2020 resolution removing the names of the anti-U.S. government heroes from the schools was “condemning racism and affirming the division’s commitment to an inclusive school environment for all.”

A group calling itself Coalition for Better Schools led the rollback effort, claiming to have surveyed residents in the affected school districts, and finding that 91.3 percent wanted the old names back on the schools.

“We understand that the decision to rename these schools was made in response to discussions surrounding Confederate symbols. However, we believe that revisiting this decision is essential to honor our community’s heritage and respect the wishes of the majority,” the coalition wrote in a letter the board dated April 3.

Around 80 people spoke on the matter at a school board meeting that began Thursday night, with more than 50 speaking against restoring the old names.

“I am a Black student, and if the names are restored, I would have to represent a man that fought for my ancestors to be slaves,” one student told the school board, adding later: “I think it is unfair to me that restoring the names is up for discussion.”

The retort to that comment came from Dennis Barlow, the school board’s chairman.

“People in the Shenandoah Valley say that only the Confederates are the ones who did nasty things, or did nasty things to Black people. You just stopped reading your history, and you’re not being realistic. War’s hell,” Barlow said.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].