The NAACP of Virginia is suing the Hanover County School Board within that state, alleging its school mascots and symbolism violate the rights and safety of African American children who attend the middle and high schools.
Lee-Davis High School within the district commemorates two individuals within the Confederacy — general Robert E. Lee and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis. Stonewall Jackson Middle School also commemorates the Confederate general by that name.
The two schools use decidedly questionable names for their sporting teams. The high school calls its athletes “the Confederates,” while the middle school refers to them as “the Rebels,” according to U.S. News & World Report.
“The NAACP is asking 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 to be renamed.” – @SchneiderG https://t.co/VSPs9m4n9h
— NAACP (@NAACP) August 16, 2019
“Forcing public school children to use Confederate names as a condition of participation forces them to engage in speech they disavow, in violation of their First Amendment right to be free of compelled speech,” the lawsuit from the NAACP contends.
It points out that the Confederacy is “intertwined with the history of slavery in America,” and that the effects of forcing children, particularly African American kids, to subscribe to the imagery of people who oppressed their ancestors, “they experience racial harassment that has significant psychological, academic, and social effects.”
It’s also detrimental to their psyche because of current movements too, the lawsuit said.
“When African American students are required to identify as ‘Confederates’ or ‘Rebels’ in order to participate in school activities, they are required to endorse the violent defense of slavery pursued by the Confederacy and the symbolism that these images have in the modern white supremacist movement,” the lawsuit alleges.
Per reporting from The Atlantic, a 2016 report from the Southern Poverty Law Center found that at least 109 public schools across 15 states had the names of Lee, Davis, or other prominent Confederate leaders etched onto them. At least a quarter of those schools had majority-black student representation, which in essence compelled those students to accept and forcibly revere those individuals, if the contentions of this present lawsuit are to be believed.
The list by the SPLC wasn’t exhaustive, and indeed more schools were identified across the nation after its report came out.