By guest blogger Katie Ash
After more than 160,000 people signed a Change.org petition to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville, Fla., the Duval County school board unanimously voted to approve a name change in a special session last night.
The school, with a student body made up of 62 percent African-American students, was named after a Confederate general who led the KKK for one year.
“African-American Jacksonville students shouldn’t have to attend a high school named for someone who slaughtered and terrorized their ancestors one more school year,” writes Ty Richmond, the author of the petition, in the document.
The 127,000-student Duval County school district’s superintendent Nickolai P. Vitti supported the name change. “It is clear that the Nathan B. Forrest name represents disparate views that have led to a cloud of divisiveness that we have had an opportunity to address and remove today,” he says in a press release. “I am convinced that my recommendation and the board’s decision will move Jacksonville and the school district forward and allow us to focus on what matters—student achievement.”
But not everyone in the community supported the name change. In surveys distributed while the name change was being considered, 48 percent of faculty supported the change, while 52 percent did not. Of the 93 community members who responded, only 25 percent supported a name change, and only 6 percent of the 339 alumni surveyed supported the renaming while a staggering 94 percent did not.
However, the school advisory council was in favor of the name change, with 64 percent supporting it, as well as the Parent-Teacher Association, with the support of 75 percent of respondents. Students also supported the change—of the 1,035 who participated in the survey, 64 percent supported the name change.
As Jackie Zubryzcki reported back in September, although the school’s new name is not yet decided upon, one thing is certain—it will not be named after another person, per district policy. The superintendent will make a recommendation to the board for a new name for the school on January 7, and the school will open for the 2014-15 year under a new moniker.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.