HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The NAACP is suing Hanover County and its school board over two schools named after Confederate leaders.
The Hanover County branch of the NAACP is asking a federal court to “eradicate the vestiges of a shameful, racist educational system in Hanover County” by ordering Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School to be renamed.
In the suit, the NAACP argues that the two schools are violating 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.”
The suit alleges the First Amendment right to be free of “compelled speech” and the right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment are being violated.
Hanover County School Board Chairman Roger Bourassa said the school board “cannot comment on pending litigation.”
In April 2018, the school board voted 5-2 to keep the names after some residents petitioned to change them in the wake of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. The Hanover Board of Supervisors recently ousted a school board member who voted in support of changing the school names.
According to the suit, Hanover County did not provide any high school education for African American students prior to 1950. The county was also one of the last in Virginia to integrate its public schools.
The president of the Hanover chapter of the NAACP, Robert Barnette, spoke with 8News over the phone about the lawsuit on Friday.
“We have students and alumni who have come forward and said that the names make them feel unwelcome,” Barnette shared.
Stay with 8News for updates on this developing story.