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Shenandoah County, again, debates changing school names... back to Confederate

Residents spoke for and against the proposed name change at a packed school board meeting on Thursday, April 11.
Bridget Manley
Residents spoke for and against the proposed name change at a packed school board meeting on Thursday, April 11.

For a third time, Shenandoah County Schools are debating controversial name changes for two county schools. WMRA’s Bridget Manley reports.

The Shenandoah County school board is again considering a move to rename Mountain View High School and Honey Run Elementary School back to their former names, Stonewall Jackson High School and Ashby-Lee Elementary School.

The school board changed the names in 2020, following the death of George Floyd. In 2022, the school board voted 3-3 to keep the new names. Since then, the three board members who voted in favor of keeping the new names have left the board and have been replaced.

At the meeting Thursday night, public comment was packed with those in favor of the possible change and those in favor of keeping the new names.

COMMENTER: I would be ashamed to live in a county that looks backward instead of forward. That sides with a misguided nostalgia over showing compassion and justice.

COMMENTER: I can stand here today and believe firmly that there was not an issue one with our school’s name as Stonewall Jackson High School. It was never about hate or slavery or injustice for anyone.

COMMENTER: A majority of the student body and faculty wish for this debate to end and for people to move on with the current names. Students including myself will be applying to colleges in the next few years and incredibly controversial names like Stonewall Jacksons do no good on college applications.

COMMENTER: As a taxpayer of this county and a U.S. Citizen, I am tired of all the woke individuals who are eating away at our values, our morals and our God-fearing way of life.

Glen Ogle is a father of children at both schools. Speaking to the board, Ogle, who is Black, said that the confederate flag, which Stonewall Jackson requested to be buried with, was dedicated to the confederacy with a very specific description.

GLEN OGLE: It says, ‘as a people, we are fighting to maintain the heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior, or colored race.’ That’s the meaning of that flag that is draped over Stonewall Jackson. That is what you want my two kids to go to every day. Fighting to maintain this legacy is a fight to maintain white supremacy. That is the legacy of the confederacy, and will be the legacy of this county, should the names be restored.

The consideration for the name reversal came from the group The Coalition for Better Schools, which sent survey cards to residents to inquire about their support. While the group claimed that over 91% of respondents supported the name reversal, only 13% of the 8,500 surveys were returned.

The cost of changing the names in 2020 was over $300,000. The request to restore the names was on the informational agenda Thursday night, and will be voted on at a later date.

Bridget Manley graduated with a degree in Mass Communications from Frostburg State University, and has spent most of her adult life working as a morning show producer and reporter for WCBC Radio in Cumberland, MD and WNAV in Annapolis, MD. She moved to Harrisonburg seven years ago and is also a reporter for The Harrisonburg Citizen. When she’s not reporting the news Bridget is the Manager of Operations for Rivercrest Farm and Event Center in Shenandoah, VA, and she also hosts a podcast that shares parenting stories called Birds In A Tree.