Hanover votes to keep Confederate school names

Hanover votes to keep Confederate school names
Lee Davis High School (Source: NBC12)
Source: NBC12
Source: NBC12

HANOVER, VA (WWBT) - On Tuesday, the Hanover School Board voted to keep the names of Lee Davis High and Stonewall Jackson Middle. A survey finds most people in Hanover wanted to keep the names.

It was a packed house as those for and against changing the names of Stonewall Jackson and Lee Davis schools spoke out.

It was not a unanimous decision. Two school board members - Marla Coleman and Ola Hawkins - voted against keeping the school names the same, after heated opinions filled the room.

The debate began in August and concluded Tuesday night.

A divided school board made a controversial conclusion to do nothing regarding Lee Davis or Stonewall Jackson - schools that reference Confederate leaders. Lee Davis' mascot is The Confederates.

"But what about the members of our community who are African American? Why should they be forced to attend a school named after white men who tried to keep people of color in chains?" one person addressed the board.

"If you start changing the names, what are we going to do about banners? What are you going to do about the DECA clubs, the people who have already spent money on these items?" another chimed in.

The board took this matter to the community - which recently responded overwhelmingly in support of keeping the names the same.

"I understand some of you feel history needs to be preserved, but why should we hold on so tightly to a part of history that literally divided our country in two?" another added.

"We have buildings that need to be upgraded. That is money that needs to go in other places," one of the speakers told the board.

"We had a very robust discussion about this very complex and very emotional topic," Board Chair Susan Dibbles said.

She said school leaders listened to all of the opinions in order to make the best decision possible. It's one that disappoints a 1971 graduate of Lee Davis, who just wishes one thing.

"To be able to say with pride to other people 'I graduated from that school in Mechanicsville'," Rose White said.

"You don't feel you can do that now?" NBC12 asked.

"I do not. I do not…I hear so many times 'you went to that Confederate school'," she said.

"At times, it was very hurtful to hear the comments, but I look at it this way: I went to school. I don't need to come to a school board meeting to hear a history lesson," Marsha Boyce-Rider added.

Although many of those who spoke out were in favor of changing the school names, there was still a round of applause after the board voted not to.

"I don't think we can change history," says Kara Goodman. "I don't think changing names, or taking down monuments or trying to rewrite history will change anything."

Goodman owns Sharkey's Tees on Mechanicsville Turnpike. Over the weekend, her company started a fundraiser for LDHS, selling t-shirts which say "Confederate" and "Always Was, Always Will Be."

She says LDHS graduates asked her to make them in light of the ongoing debate.

Sharkey's Facebook post said, "...let Hanover County know you are proud to be a Lee Davis Confederate."

While many people supported the fundraiser, there were also people who didn't agree with using the word "Confederate."

"We don't agree with that either, but that's a private business and we can choose or not to choose to patronize that business based on their messages," says Rachel Levy with Together Hanover.

Goodman says things did get ugly on social media.

"People I don't even know were being attacked on my Facebook page," she said. "We're all the same inside. We all bleed red. It doesn't matter what color our skin is. It doesn't make a difference to me."

People who want the school names to change also took issue that the fundraiser was shared on Facebook page called "Hanover Happenings." It has the county emblem and on Monday, linked back to the official Hanover government page. The post was taken down that day.

"The supervisors have encouraged people to sign up to get notifications from Hanover Happenings," says Levy.

A spokesperson for the county says this is not an official government social media website, and the link to the county page was taken down on Tuesday.

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