Virginia school board votes to reinstate Confederate names

A Virginia school board voted overwhelmingly to reinstate the names of two schools honoring Confederate leaders.

Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School will again be known as Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School.

The decision was reached by a 5-1 vote Thursday at a Shenandoah County School Board Meeting.

Virginia was home to the capital of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War, which lasted from April 1861 to April 1865. The state moved to change school names memorializing secessionists after Minnesota man George Floyd was filmed being killed by Minneapolis police in 2020, sparking nationwide riots.

Board member Brandi Rutz told the Daily News via email that the initial process four years ago to change the school names was rushed, “flawed” and complicated by the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We are not discounting the past, the negative parts of our Virginia history or the experiences of our Black neighbors,” she said. “They need to be heard, acknowledged, welcomed and included.”

For Rutz, “the preservation of the democratic process and overwatch of government” was on the ballot at Thursday night’s meeting.

“I feel that was the subject of last night’s vote,” she said.

Fellow board member Gloria Carlineo, who noted she’s a Hispanic woman born and raised in Puerto Rico, shares Rutz’s sentiments about the previous vote being unfair. She also said for many area residents, the preservation of Virginia’s history is a big factor in the naming of schools.

“It is very sad that we live in a time where not only is history being systematically erased but that people are encouraged to feel victimized as part of their cultural or ethnic heritage,” Carlineo said via email.

Other board members did not immediately return a request for comment.

One Black resident in attendance at Thursday’s session, which lasted more than six hours, felt the renaming was a step in the wrong direction, according to the Washington Post.

“Why are we here tonight to go back to a time in history that was very cruel?” that person asked. “Is this the type of legacy you want to put in Shenandoah County’s public school buildings?”

Ashby Lee Elementary School was named for both cavalry officer Turner Ashby, who died in battle in 1862, and Gen. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate forces. Stonewall Jackson served under Lee and led the charge in 1864’s bloody Shenandoah Valley Campaign.