SHENANDOAH COUNTY, VA — A Virginia school board is considering reverting the names of two of its schools to the Confederate generals those schools once honored.
The Shenandoah County School Board voted in 2020 to rename Stonewall Jackson High School to Mountain View High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School to Honey Run Elementary School.
Community alumni produced a petition of more than 4,000 signatures this month to revert the names, two years after the name changes were made. That encouraged the school board to take up the issue last week.
The Shenandoah County School Board membership has changed bringing a fresh set of eyes to the name change. Board Vice Chair Dennis Barlow even went so far as to call those in favor of the name change “creepy,” “elitist.” And “from the dark side,” as NBC News reported.
The issue came up at the May 12 meeting of the school board. Watch the debate starting at 4:45 into the meeting:
Shenadoah County (VA) School Board meeting on May 12, 2022
Board member Kyle Gutshall was concerned the issue was impacting the children of the school district. He said Stonewall Jackson was on the building for 50-something years and not once did one of his constituents tell him the name was ‘offensive.’ He said the prior school board allowed the issue to get away from the peoples’ intentions and bowed to outsiders’ pressure.
Board member Cynthia Walsh said we haven’t heard from the majority about the name change. She estimated that the vast majority is the silent majority and would be in favor of reverting the school names. However, she noted that the board does not take a survey on every decision it considers.
“Revisiting the name change is not what is best for kids. Times have changed. The makeup of our school kids has changed,” She said.
Barlow argued it was in the best interest of the kids.
“There is a better feeling about race than has ever been since I’ve lived here (for 25 years). The petitions are more representative than the whole county,” he said.
Barlow said he didn’t campaign on the name change issue yet here it is before the board.
“Do you believe we’ve got kids in favor of the name change because they don’t want anyone to judge against them because they went to Stonewall Jackson High School. I mean can you believe that? So what we’re going to do, we’re going to kowtow to the other side because they have people who are creepy enough to judge against a kid because of the name of (his or her) school. We shouldn’t give into it. That’s giving into the Dark Side and I don’t think we should do that,” Barlow said.
Barlow mentioned that there are Malcolm X high schools, schools named after President Barrack Obama, John F. Kennedy, and even President Bill Clinton. He suggested none of these namesakes are flawless and the diversity of high school names across the country speaks volumes to the diverse options and opinions that are allowed in the United States.
Board member Brandy Rutz said she thought reverting the names could be seen nationally as an effort by a brave community to push back on the leftist agenda. She said reverting the names may start a nationwide trend and/or attract people to move to the area.
She said, “We may see people come here. Hey (they’d say), you stand up to your values. (They may think) I lost the name of my school because some woke crowd accused me of being a racist. (Outsiders may wonder) How did ya’ll work to get this back?”
The board only entertained citizens remarks and had a wide-ranging discussion in open session. The board wants the school administration to conduct a survey before the board revisits the decision to revert the school names to their original namesakes. This will take six weeks.
About the Virginia school namesakes: Turner Ashby was a Confederate cavalry commander in the American Civil War. General Robert E. Lee was the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson served as Lee’s right hand general from 1861 until his untimely death by friendly fire on May 10, 1863.
The San Angelo ISD changed the name of 70-year-old Robert E. Lee Middle School to Lone Star Middle School in 2020.
After a district staff organized a process called “Engaging Equity” where attendees opposing the name change were in a majority, yet a majority of speakers to the lectern during school board meetings was in favor of ditching Robert E. Lee’s name, the board voted 6-1 for the change. During the Engaging Equity forums, white citizens are implored to “lift up their sheets” by NAACP’s president Shirley Spears.
The unenforceable bargain made during the name change by the San Angelo ISD board was trustee Max Parker’s promise that for him, the leftists get their name change with Lee Middle School. In return, the movement to change the name of other schools, including Reagan Elementary School, stops. Reagan Elementary is named after John H. Reagan in 1908. Reagan was “probably the greatest statesmen Texas has ever known,” Parker said, referring to Reagan’s post-Civil War career. Reagan was also the Confederacy’s postmaster general during the Civl War.
Shenandoah County, Virginia sits on the edge of the Shenandoah Valley where a major campaign during the Civil War was fought. Although Tom Green County was unpopulated during the Civil War, Col. Robert E. Lee’s final assignment with the U.S. Army was Commander, 2nd United States Cavalry regiment, at Forts Mason and Chadbourne. Lee rode the Concho Valley on horseback defending the frontier of Texas from here from 1855 until he was called back to Washington, DC in 1861 prior to the Civil War. Camp Johnson, a part of the line of defensive positions of the frontier defense line, was on the Concho River near Water Valley. Robert E. Lee camped there.
Shenandoah County Trustee Kyle Gutshall was originally referred to as Kirk Gutshall. The error has been corrected.