- Associated Press - Friday, July 10, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A petition drive to change the name of Stonewell Jackson Middle School has sparked debate among alumni and residents, and spawned a counter petition aimed at keeping the Confederate military leader’s name on the school building.

A petition is the work of Gregg Suzanne McAllister and her group, Mothers of Diversity America. The school educates more black children than any other in the city, county and state, she said, and to educate them in a school named after Jackson is “astounding.”

The school had 554 enrolled students in the 2014-15 school year. They included 220 black students and 302 white students, according to the state Department of Education’s website.

Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who was born in Clarksburg, served under Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

The symbols and historical figures of the Confederacy have come under intense scrutiny since the killings last month of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, South Carolina, church. The white man suspected in the slayings had posed with a Confederate battle flag in a photograph.

The debate over Stonewall Jackson Middle School in West Virginia’s capital city has drawn arguments from both sides of the issue, The Charleston Daily Mail (https://bit.ly/1LZEwN9 ) reports.

Attorney Elliot Hicks is a Stonewall High School alumnus who also attended Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. He said he doesn’t believe there’s a reason to change the name of either school.

But he said he might be open to changing the name of the middle school if someone came up with a better name and one that reflected the community’s changing demographics.

A former cheerleader at Stonewall High, Sharon Lewis said the Confederacy “seeped” into the culture at the school and she wouldn’t oppose a name change.

Lewis said the school band playing the song “Dixie” at sporting events made her feel very uncomfortable.

Amid the petition drive, another petition has emerged on social media intent on keeping the name.

Hicks said there are more important matters to debate.

“What we need is better after school programs, better funding, teachers who are trained to deal with the demographics on the West Side,” Hicks said.

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Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, https://www.charlestondailymail.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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