Virginia School Board Votes to Restore Names of Confederate Figures to Schools

Evan Poellinger | May 14, 2024

The Shenandoah County School Board voted 5-1 to return the original Confederate-affiliated names of a pair of schools after the schools had been renamed in the wake of the 2020 George Floyd riots.

Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School will have their respective pre-2020 names of Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby Lee. The schools were named after Confederate Generals Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, Turner Ashby, and Robert E. Lee respectively.

The vote was initiated with the support of the Coalition for Better Schools, which touted the groundswell of support for a return to the historic names of the schools. The organization mailed 8,507 surveys, and of the 1,160 received in response, 90 percent of those respondents favored restoring the names of the Confederate generals to the schools.

The vote was preceded two years before by a similar motion to reinstate the names, which failed after the school board’s vote ended in a tie. Ironically, Vice Chairman Kyle Gutshall, the one member of the board to vote against the proposal this year, voted in favor of the 2022 attempt to reinstate the former names.

Shenandoah County’s vote represents a dramatic reversal of a trend of renaming places and tearing down monuments that began in the aftermath of the George Floyd incident. According to Education Week, more than sixty schools dispensed with their Confederate-affiliated names. Thus far, Shenandoah County is the only school district to have reneged on this renaming trend.

However, the reversal did not come about without opposition, as an online petition against undoing the renaming earned 687 signatures. Sarah Kohrs, one of the leaders of this opposition effort, derided the reversal of the renaming as a matter of “vengeance, control, and hatred,” despite its popular support.

While the George Floyd incident may have catalyzed a new era in the perception of America’s history and culture in the minds of some Americans, Shenandoah County seems to illustrate that the changes of this new era can, in fact, be reversed.