Henrico school leaders mull over middle school renaming

Henrico school leaders mull over middle school renaming

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A name change could be coming to a Henrico middle school. 60 people attended the first of two public meetings that took place Wednesday night to talk about a possible name change for Harry F. Byrd Middle School.

Some community members say the school shouldn't be named for a segregationist.

While the majority approved of changing the name, others questioned holding Byrd to today's standards and called it a slippery slope.

The majority of the 16 speakers supported a change to Harry Bird Middle. "If you come to the conclusion that the name of Harry Byrd should remain on this school, you're making the choice to honor who denied humanity in others," said speaker Melissa McKenney, who supported changing the name.

For Kathy DeShazo-Jackson, Tuesday night was personal. She said she was one of the first African-American students to attend the school back in the 70s. "If you don't make a change, then you are supporting the way things are currently. So you've got to start someplace and it's not always easy," said
DeShazo-Jackson, who believes there should be a change.

High school senior Jordan Chapman has been spearheading the efforts to change the name. Her petition already has nearly 1,200 signatures. "Not only was this guy a racist, but he stood in the way of kids getting an education and there's a school named after him. There's an inherent hypocrisy to that that I think needs to be addressed," she explained.

However, not everyone's on board, saying Harry Byrd was a recognized political leader in Virginia's history.

Even though he led the charge against integrating schools in the 50s and 60s, some are saying he shouldn't be judged by today's standards. "I would ask that this board take a courageous stand and not play along with this politically correct nonsense that has become [an] epidemic in our society," said Andy Johnson, who is against changing the name.

At least one person wondered if changing the name would be enough to make a real difference either way. "I'm not particularly for changing the name. I'm not particular for keeping the name, but my concern is changing the name going to effect a positive change in the way people view each other?"
said Henrico resident Ronald Davis.

A school spokesperson says there's no timeline on a decision at this point.

The next public meeting will take place at Byrd Middle on Tuesday, March 8 starting at 6:30 p.m.

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