Should school names be changed amid Confederate monument debate?

Forrest High name changed in 2014; could other schools be soon to follow?

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As the conversation over Confederate statues in Jacksonville continues to heat up following violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, many are wondering if several local schools with names linked to the Confederacy could be renamed.

In 2014, after years of controversy, the Duval County School Board voted to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School to Westside High, because of the namesake's ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Jacksonville currently has at least seven schools whose names are tied to the Confederacy or slavery:

  • J.E.B. Stuart Middle
  • Kirby-Smith Middle
  • Jefferson Davis Middle
  • Robert E. Lee High
  • Stonewall Jackson Elementary
  • Andrew Jackson High
  • Joseph Finegan Elementary

The majority of the schools are on the Westside and Northside of town. Finegan Elementary is in Atlantic Beach.

Some think with the current climate around the country, it's time to consider renaming those schools.

Glen Hannah of Occupy Jacksonville said he attended three schools with Confederate names: Stonewall Jackson Elementary, JEB Stuart Middle and Nathan B. Forrest High. He said he hopes the other local school names will see the same fate as his high school alma mater.

“We know it's not going to be an instant change and we don't expect the schools' names to be changed immediately, but we do expect them to at least consider what we're saying and consider our reasoning for it,” Hannah said. “One-by-one, slowly we can probably name them after more positive individuals or more positive influences.”

But others think we should leave well enough alone.

“Changing a school name does not make anyone smarter. Use that money to educate students,” said Ceber Newsome III of Save Southern Heritage Florida. “I thought schools were where you go to learn. Why don't you teach students about those people, the history, the truth about what happened in the war between the states.”
Changing the name of an existing school is not an easy process.

DOCUMENT: Changing a school name (see page 59)

The school board has to accept a written request from the superintendent, a board member, the school’s SAC, PTA or 75 percent of the student body or alumni of the school.

If accepted, the board has to get input from several groups, including the school’s students and staff, PTA, alumni and more.

As with Forrest High several years ago, the process can take some time and be costly. It cost about $294,500 to change Forrest High's name, according to the district. At this point, the district said, the board is not currently considering changing any school names.

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