Parents and students in Henrico County, Va. battled Tuesday over whether to rename a middle school that honors a former governor who was also a champion of segregation, reports WTVR.
The school board told WTVR that it expects to announce a decision as early as Thursday about Harry F. Byrd Middle School.
At the meeting, older African-Americans recalled that Harry F. Byrd Sr., who also served as a U.S. senator, fought bitterly to prevent Black children from attending better schools set aside for White students.
Other voices at the two-hour debate were equally passionate about keeping the name.
Bill Jackson told WTVR that Byrd and other segregationists are part of southern history, and posed this rhetorical question:
“Where does it stop, any malcontent comes in saying ‘I find this name offensive?’”
ABC News reports that Andy Washington, a teacher from another county, said the movement to paint over the names of racist historic figures is rooted in political correctness. He added:
“Let me tell you, if they change the name Harry Byrd, they’re going to go after somebody else. That name on that building is not preventing those children from getting any kind of education.”
Jordan Chapman, a high school senior who did not attend Byrd Middle School, has collected hundreds of names in her petition campaign to rename the school, according to ABC News. The network reports that she rejects all the arguments to keep the name:
“When you take away the money thing (it will cost an estimated $137,000), take the heritage thing out of this, a school shouldn’t be named after somebody who stood in the way of education. That’s it. Bottom line.”
Most people at the meeting wanted the school renamed. The board has been publicly neutral, but also seeking alternative names for the school, according to WTVR.