Civil rights group demands school board change school names

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – The names of two schools are a topic of controversy.

Hampton Schools FlyerA civil rights group is demanding the school board change the names of Jefferson Davis Middle and The Campus at Lee, formerly Robert E. Lee Elementary.

“They should be appalled to even have that on our school buildings right now,” President of the Peninsula Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference Andrew Shannon says. “These two individuals represent hatred and bigotry and racial division.”

Shannon says the schools should instead be named after African-American Hampton Roads leaders like Dr. Mary Christian, Mary Smith Kelsey Peake or Edna Davis.

Hampton Schools Spokeswoman Diana Gulotta says the school board is hosting two public hearings to get the pulse of the public before making a decision.

“Obviously everyone has a lot of different opinions on this, and it’s a very emotional issue. So I think it’s important that our community engage in thoughtful dialogue,” Gulotta said.

There are mixed feelings about changing the names of schools.

According to an email obtained by 10 On Your Side, city of Hampton PTA members voted not to rename the schools.

Hampton PTA Council President Pam Croom released the following statement:

By overwhelming vote on the renaming of the 2 schools, is NOT to rename the schools. This will be the stance of Hampton Council PTA citywide as all PTA Boards were notified to vote.

Be advised if you speak as PTA, this is the stance.

If your views are different, you can speak as an individual person but not as a PTA member. The only exception to this would require you to call for a special general membership meeting – as outlined in your bylaws – and calling for a vote.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me directly.

Ashley Adams has a 7th grade student at Davis Middle and is on the PTA. She disagrees with the majority.

“I think that we should promote and cultivate a change future. I think that by changing the name of the school we will start off doing that.”

Adams believes changing the names could give the students at Davis middle a renewed sense of pride.

“As much as we would like to honor our past, we do have current heroes. We have heroes of today that can be honored as well,” she said.

More information on Board Policy FFA, related to school name changes, can be found here.

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