- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 15, 2020

MECHANICSVILLE, Va. (AP) - A public school board in Virginia has voted to remove the names of Confederate leaders from two schools.

Hanover County Public Schools Board members cast a 4-3 vote during a virtual meeting Tuesday to rename Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Mechanicsville, news outlets reported.

The board has yet to decide on new names. The schools were named to honor Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis more than 50 years ago, at a time when the civil rights movement was sweeping the nation.

Bob Hundley, who voted for the change, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he doesn’t believe the schools can be “an inclusive and welcoming environment for students and learning” without recognizing the opposition to their Confederate names.

The school board received dozens of public comments. A large majority asked for the change, citing the nationwide protests against racism and police brutality since the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

“We are well-past the point where this conversation can be about ‘heritage’ and ‘history,’” resident Becky Huber said. “The history is clear. This decision is no longer a question of courage. It is a question of, at best, willful ignorance, and at worst, blatant racism.”

But the names still have their supporters: “You have the ability to bring our community together at a time when the country seems to be in peril,” resident Jerry McCormick Jr. told the board. “Arbitrarily changing the names now adds fuel to the fire.”

The board acted about two months after a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the Hanover branch of the NAACP that said the Confederate names violate the constitutional rights of Black students.

High school student Sophie Lynn, who created a petition to get the name changed, told the newspaper that the vote shows “We’re moving in the right direction … It’s small, but it’s going to make Hanover a better place for students of color.”

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