School Board Sued for Reverting Schools to Confederate Names

The Virginia chapter of the NAACP last week sued the Shenandoah County School Board, alleging that the board was discriminating against black students and violating their Free Speech rights when the board voted to reinstate the Confederate-era names of two district schools.

In a 5-1 vote last month, the board approved a measure to scrap the names Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School and reinstate the original names of the schools – Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary – reversing a decision a previous board rushed through following the Black Lives Matter riots in 2020.

The NAACP accused the board of forcing black students in the district, who make up less than 3 percent of the student population, to “endorse” the Confederacy and “the symbolism” that Confederate images “have in the modern White supremacist movement.”

The group argued in their lawsuit that black students who play sports would be required to wear uniforms with the name and logo of the Stonewall Jackson Generals, which the NAACP claimed symbolized “hatred,” “white supremacy,” and opposition to integration.

If black students refuse to play for the Confederate-named team, they could “miss out on future opportunities,” the lawsuit claims.

In its lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Virginia, the NAACP claimed that returning to the Confederate school names violated the First Amendment rights of students, including the right “not to express a view” that a person disagrees with, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibiting “racial discrimination in state-supported institutions.”

In approving the measure to revert to the original names, the board members said they were upholding the sentiment of the community. They argued that the previous board that removed the names in 2020 had disregarded the views of district residents.

Kyle Gushall, the one board member who voted against the measure, said while he appreciated both sides of the debate, he believed that the residents he represented wanted to leave the new names in place.