Aug. 16 (UPI) — A Virginia chapter of the NAACP filed a lawsuit saying school names that commemorate Confederate leaders “champion a legacy of segregation and oppression.”
The federal lawsuit was filed against Hanover County and the school board for the district located outside Richmond, Va.
The suit argues that Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School violate the rights of African-American students whose ancestors were held in slavery during the Civil War. The NAACP wants the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to “eradicate the vestiges of a shameful, racist educational system in Hanover County” by ordering the schools be renamed.
The children who participate in school activities will represent the school, which the NAACP said violates the First Amendment guarantee to being free from compelled speech.
“We believe it’s one of the first times that these well-established legal principles have been used to challenge the issue of Confederate and segregation legacy names in schools,” said Katilin Banner, deputy legal director for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.
County spokesman Tom Harris said he wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.
Virginia was the capital of the Confederacy and has been trying to distance itself from that history. Gov. Ralph Northam removed the name of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from a memorial at Fort Monroe. Sections of Jefferson Davis Highway in Northern Virginia have been renamed.
As of 2018, 31 Virginia schools had Confederate names. By the start of 2019, 18 had been removed.