Hanover County School Board to discuss ‘possible resolutions’ to federal lawsuit over county school names

Hanover County

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The Hanover County School Board announced plans on Tuesday to hold a special closed session meeting next week in order to review possible resolutions to a pending federal lawsuit recently filed by the county’s NAACP branch.

In the suit, the Hanover County branch of the NAACP claims that the names and mascots of two schools, Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School, creates an environment “that denies students of color an equal opportunity to an education” and seeks that both be renamed.

The suit argues the names violate the Constitutional rights of African American students by forcing them to “champion a legacy of segregation and oppression in order to participate in school activities.”

Hanover schools said little in response in the wake of the lawsuit being made public. Roger Bourassa, the board’s chairman, told 8News in August that they “cannot comment on pending litigation.”

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for the district said the school board will discuss a possible resolution to the NAACP’s lawsuit on Nov. 22 during a closed-door meeting. While the meeting will be closed, residents can share their input online.

“The School Board is committed to being transparent and welcomes feedback from the Hanover community,” a statement from Chris Whitley, a Hanover County Public Schools spokesman, said Tuesday. “Hanover County residents may contact their School Board member before November 22 to provide input.”

Hanover schools also provided a list of factors the board will be considering when examining a possible resolution, including the amount of legal fees that the suit promises to bring. The full list of factors are below:

  • The School Board is committed to providing the best possible learning environment for all Hanover County students and makes every decision with the best interest of students in mind. 
  • The School Board is mindful of and responsive to various community perspectives.
  • If the School Board decides to resolve the matter, it will cost an estimated $495,000 to change the names and mascots at Lee-Davis and Stonewall Jackson.
  • If the School Board decides to continue the litigation, the School Board will incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and costs defending the lawsuit.  Litigation with appeals would likely last a minimum of two years. 
  • If the NAACP prevails in the lawsuit, the School Board could be responsible for the NAACP’s legal fees, which are expected to be several million dollars.
  • Regardless of whether the lawsuit is resolved, Lee-Davis and Stonewall Jackson will eventually be replaced as part of the School Board’s long-term facilities planning, and they will be renamed pursuant to existing School Board Policy.

This story is developing. Stay with 8News for updates.

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