Lawsuit challenges Hanover schools named after Confederate leaders

Suit challenges Confederate school names in Hanover County

HANOVER, Va. (WWBT/AP) - A local chapter of the NAACP is suing a Virginia county in an effort to change the names of schools named in honor of Confederate leaders.

The Hanover County chapter of the NAACP said Friday that it was filing a federal lawsuit challenging the school names on constitutional grounds.

“Our aim is to create an inclusive school environment that will welcome all children in Hanover County," said Robert Barnette of the NAACP. “All students should be welcomed in a school environment.”

The group says the county is forcing black students to attend schools that venerate Confederate imagery in violation of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The lawsuit said the county is compelling speech in support of “a legacy of segregation and oppression.”

The Hanover Board of Supervisors recently ousted a school board member who voted to change the names of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

"From what we heard while talking to people in the community, African American students feel unwelcomed and excluded from the school communities because of the name,” said Caitlyn Banner of the Washington Lawyers Committee.

It’s been a long and continuous fight by the organization and others in the community.

A past petition to have the names changed was filed in December of 2017, right after the violence in Charlottesville.

The School board voted not to change the names the following April.

“We have run out of all other options and it doesn’t appear the school system really wanted to do anything about it,” Barnette said.

Lawyers say this lawsuit is the first of it’s kind where an organization is suing to have schools named after Confederate leaders changed.

The lawsuit claims the county is promoting speech supporting “segregation and oppression.”

Lee Davis students are known as the Confederates. Stonewall Jackson students are known as the Rebels.

A county spokesman and School Board leaders declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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