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School name change opponents place Confederate flags around district headquarters

Opponents to the school name changes posted about a dozen confederate flags on Duval Schools property during a demonstration.
Opponents to the school name changes posted about a dozen confederate flags on Duval Schools property during a demonstration. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Demonstrators gathered outside the Southbank headquarters of Duval County Public Schools Wednesday evening as the school board considers whether to rebrand nine schools with controversial names.

The final decision on school name changes recommended by the superintendent is expected at the board meeting on Tuesday, but supporters and opponents of the measure weren’t waiting to make their voices heard.

Demonstrators gather outside school board HQ
Demonstrators gather outside school board HQ

Opponents to the name changes posted about a dozen confederate flags on Duval Schools’ property as people gathered. Others brought megaphones, promising to sing “Dixie” when the other side begins speaking.

Meanwhile, groups like The Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, 904ward, Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, The EVAC Movement and others had microphones and speakers ready to call for change.

Like other recent demonstrations, there were two designated areas, one for each demonstration. But a group of name-change opponents tried to leave their designated protest area. They told the volunteer peacekeepers, “you have no authority here.” The men were quickly ushed back inside their zone by Duval Schools Police.

Superintendent Diana Greene Tuesday released her recommendations, marking the next to last step in the district’s name change process.

“She made her recommendation on Lee’s graduation and people want to be united and people want to make sure they’re seen and heard and just the final push to make sure that we got that point across,” said Deyona Burton, a Lee High graduate who attended the gathering.

Burton is the former senior class president.

“We’ve had months of community meetings and we’ve had months of discussions and social media campaigns and it’s reeked emotional havoc on all the students and once you’ve done all that, how can you not change the name?” Burton said.

Those against changing the names of the schools feel it’s history that shouldn’t be erased.

“The ignorance is prevalent, because this whole thing about slavery and the war between the states, there’s so many uneducated people and I’m tired of it,” said one supporter of keeping the school names.

“These school board members live here and they’re going to have to live with their decision and if they’re going to run for political office after this, and they vote to change the names, people are going to remember that, believe me,” said Seber Newsome, who supports keeping the school names.

Greene’s recommendations to rename six of the nine schools under consideration were made public the week after the votes of stakeholders in those schools were counted.

Demonstrators are expected to return during the board meeting next Tuesday.

Demonstrators gather over school name change
Demonstrators gather over school name change

About the Authors:

Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.

Reports weeknights for The Ten O'Clock News and News4Jax at 11.