Public hearings scheduled to discuss changing Confederate names of schools

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton School Board has announced plans to receive public comment on whether to change the Confederate names of two schools.

During Wednesday’s school board meeting, members voted unanimously to schedule public hearings on Oct. 26th and Nov. 8. Citizens will be able to weigh in on whether they believe Jefferson Davis Middle School and The Campus at Lee should be renamed.

The hearings come after civil rights groups demanded the board act. Last month, the Hampton NAACP chapter hosted a unity rally.

At Wednesday’s meeting, members of the NAACP, SCLC and grassroots organizations came out, urging the board to change the names.

Several civil rights groups made the same plea last year, but the board ultimately voted to keep the names.

Gaylene Kanoyton, Hampton’s NAACP President, told 10 On Your Side that they have more fuel in this year’s fight. The group is now basing its argument on a school policy which states: “Elementary and middle schools will be named in honor of persons who have rendered outstanding service to mankind.”

“Certainly, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis do not fit that criteria,” Kanoyton said.

“Renaming schools will help to create a better narrative of a society which embraces and celebrates its diversity,” said Benjamin Suker, a professor at Hampton University.

Suker argued that the recent events in Charlottesville should prompt the board to revisit this matter.

Board Member Butch Harper told the crowd that the tragedy there did lead him to “stop and reflect” the matter.

One speaker at the meeting expressed a desire to keep the names, calling Robert E. Lee a “hero.”

“He was a soldier first, and that’s what he was doing, tasked to command, that’s what he did… we need a few more heroes in our lives.”

An exact time and location for the public hearings has yet to be determined.