Virginia superintendent: rename Stonewall Jackson High, ban confederate flag on school grounds

Virginia News

MANASSAS, Va. (WRIC/AP) — The Superintendent of Prince William County Schools (PWCS) has announced an ‘action plan’ that the school system is implementing in order to support diversity and inclusion in response to the recent unrest and protests.

Steve Walts, the Superintendent, is proposing to amend the code of conduct — banning the wearing, or flying of the Confederate flag on school grounds.

“We can no longer represent the Confederacy in our schools,” Walts said.

He wants the school board to immediately rename Stonewall Jackson High and Stonewall Jackson Middle, both in the Manassas area. Creating a new name would require action by the county school board.

Stonewall Jackson earned his nickname at the 1861 Battle of Manassas where he and his men were said to be “standing like a stone wall” and served as a rallying point for a Confederate victory.

Walts’ letter comes a day after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said the state would remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue. The Lee statue has been its own rallying point for protesters responding to the death of George Floyd.

In nearby Fairfax County, the school board voted in 2017 to change the name of J.E.B. Stuart High School, referring to another Confederate general, to Justice High. It is also considering a proposal to change the name of Robert E. Lee High.

The district will also be creating a community panel to help the public and police department build a relationship foundation.

From Walts’ release:

Words matter, symbols matter, and actions matter. So today I am calling for the following:

  1. We can no longer represent the Confederacy in our schools. To this end, the renaming of Stonewall Jackson High School and Stonewall Middle School should begin immediately, pursuant to the policy of the School Board. It is an insult and an affront to our students, especially in schools where the majority of the students are students of color.
  2. Additionally, I will be proposing to the School Board we amend our Code of Conduct to prohibit the wearing, or flying, of the Confederate Flag on school grounds. This behavior is often meant to intimidate students of color, and as such, it is a disruption to the educational environment. Incidents in the past have made students extremely uncomfortable, the opposite of my vision for our schools.
  3. Our law enforcement partners are critical to the safety of all our students and employees and we thank them for their service. We recognize, however, that the relationship between police and all the members of our school community is not always perceived positively. In order to promote a greater understanding and relationship between our community and our police department, I will be establishing a community panel to review our current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Prince William County Police and make recommendations if changes are needed.

To read the full statement from Steve Walts — click here.

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