Board votes to consider Forrest High name change

Superintendent directed to survey stakeholders, make recommendation

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After weeks of controversy, the Duval County School Board unanimously voted Friday to initiate the renaming process for Nathan B. Forrest High School.

Forrest, who the school is named after, was a Confederate general who is also known for being the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Friday's vote came during a special meeting and formally accepts a written request by Board Member Connie Hall, who represents the Westside district that includes Forrest, and directs Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to initiate the process.

"There has been a tremendous amount of community and national interest in the Forrest High School name," Vitti said after the meeting. "It's the start of the official engagement process to hear from the stakeholders that are defined in policy that need to be engaged and heard before I make a final recommendation to the board regarding a possible name change."

That process will include surveying current and former students, the school's faculy, advisory council, parent teacher association and people who live in Forrest's attendance zone about whether the name should be changed.  Town hall meetings would also be held.

The superintendent said he hoped to complete the process and make his recommendation whether or not to rename the school to the board in December or January. The board would then hold another vote on that recommendation.

Friday's meeting followed a board meeting Tuesday night at which the Forrest issue was not even on the agenda, but people on both sides spoke for nearly two hours during the public comment period.

The board policy "Naming or Renaming Schools or School Facilities," established in April 1997, guided the process that the Forrest High School Advisory Council (SAC) used to recommend renaming in 2007. In November of 2008, the policy was updated to the current policy, which permits the superintendent, a board member, SAC, PTA, or 75 percent of students, alumni, and community members to initiate a name change.

Schools, according to the current policy, shall not be named for persons (living or deceased) or be in conflict with an existing school or district facility name.