Support Change at Lee-Davis High School, Home of the Confederates in Virginia
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NOTE: all are welcome to sign the petition, but if you are a Lee-Davis High School alumni, parent of a student in Hanover County Public Schools or Hanover County resident please make a note in your signature. We have a special private petition that includes the names of alumni, students & faculty with graduation dates, e-mail LDHSChange@gmail.com to be added to that private petition. Feel free to sign BOTH!
Please DO NOT include hateful or violent language in your signatures. This is a peaceful campaign inspired to uplift the local community and students.
This petition contains signatures from a broad coalition including students, alumni, faculty, former faculty, concerned parents of students in Hanover County, residents from across Virginia and others from around the world.
In our preparation, we uncovered troubling facts about the history of Hanover County Public Schools that are now largely erased from public consciousness. We found decades old opposition to these names and mascots led by students as early as the 1960s. Unfortunately, our public schools have long held a negative association with white supremacist groups in our state, including the Ku Klux Klan, who continue to use and glorify Confederate names and symbols at their demonstrations. Other communities and governments across the country have properly confronted the violence associated with these symbols. We agree that now is the time to confront this costly problem ourselves before violence or external forces lead to a more shameful public retraction of these names and mascots.
Lee-Davis High School was named and built during a dark era of segregation in our country. In 1959, Lee-Davis High School was built to educate exclusively white students in Hanover County. White students in grades eight through twelve from Battlefield Park and Washington Henry Schools were permitted to vote on the new name and mascot, ultimately the school board finalized the current name and Confederate mascot. This decision was made five years after the US Supreme Court declared separate, but equal segregation to be unconstitutional. Lee-Davis High School would not meet federal integration standards until 1969, ten years after it opened.
That decade saw a parallel embrace of Confederate symbols by the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups across the country in opposition to the Civil Rights Movement. Their memberships increased under opposition to integration and Confederate symbols were glorified at their public demonstrations. While Lee-Davis remained segregated under a Confederate name and mascot, these same Confederate symbols supporting the legacy of Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and the rebel battle flag inspired these violent white supremacist groups in their efforts to keep schools segregated. Later, the construction of Stonewall Jackson Middle School with their Rebel mascot made this negative association more powerful.
Across the country, white supremacist groups continue to glorify symbols of the Confederacy. Cities from Baltimore to Charleston to New Orleans have already reckoned with these complicated histories by quickly removing public support for Confederate symbols. We believe that Mechanicsville can also find a way to honor all parts of our history by acknowledging these historical facts and present realities. Right now, images of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee hang on banners in Lee-Davis High School as symbols of pride. Stonewall Jackson's name is imprinted on sweatshirts and murals next door. Lee-Davis students are taught that a Confederate symbol is a source of pride and the Confederate mascot is met with cheers at football games. We can take it upon ourselves to remove the association with these symbols still used by white supremacists as a source of pride.
Today, Hanover County Public Schools are integrated with students from all races and 28 different native languages. This diversity is planned to increase in the future. Our long range plan for 2017-2023 reflects important themes of relevance, equity, relationships and community. Hanover’s mission is to inspire, empower and lead as a student-centered, community-driven school district that assures a quality education for success in a changing world. Hanover agrees that public education must foster equitable opportunities for each child and that students thrive in a safe and secure environment that nurtures the whole child.
The long range plan sets forward goals and objectives to 1) provide a community that promotes diversity through awareness, appreciation and understanding, 2) create an environment of mutual trust in which all employees feel supported, empowered, valued and engaged, 3) provide a safe, inclusive environment that engages all students, and 4) evaluate factors that impact the social and emotional safety of students. Continuing to glorify symbols of the Confederacy in school names and mascots directly contradicts these goals, missions and values for the future of Hanover County Public Schools.
We are a peaceful coalition that seeks compromise to benefit all parties involved. This necessary process can be long, but we are committed to make it a reality. We seek inspiration from Quioccasin Middle School in our neighboring Henrico County where a peaceful change removed their negative association with Harry Byrd and his tireless support for segregation in Virginia. Members of that community can testify to the positive results following their necessary and economical compromise. We want to work with the school board and Hanover administrators to implement a democratic process to choose a name not associated with or glorified by white supremacist organizations. A neutral name such as Mechanicsville High School or Mechanicsville Middle School are two simple recommendations, but the possibilities are wide. We want to work with the school board and Hanover administrators to propose a reasonable budget to implement these necessary changes, some quickly and others gradually, for the most convenient and economic solution.
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