BRISTOL, Va. (WJHL)- The names of two elementary schools are now being reconsidered as places and monuments honoring the Confederacy across the country face backlash.
The Bristol, Virginia School Board is set to discuss its school naming policy at an upcoming meeting on July 6th. Two of its elementary schools, Stonewall Jackson and Washington-Lee, reference the names of Confederate generals.
Superintendent Keith Perrigan said no one in particular is asking for the names to be changed, and there is no formal proposal to do so yet. However, he said the school board is trying to be proactive in response to what other schools across Virginia are doing.
“If you look at what other school divisions are doing across the Commonwealth and even across the country, school names are being changed. And we thought it was at least worth discussion,” said Perrigan.
Perrigan said he’s eager to hear community input on the matter.
“I think that changing names of schools, or adding names of schools that are built new, should be a community decision with community input,” he said.
Perrigan said the discussion will be a review of the school naming policy. He doesn’t expect any action to be taken right away at the July 6th meeting. If school names were to be changed, it wouldn’t happen overnight.
“If we get to the point where we do look at new names for any of our buildings, there would be a committee involved,” he said.
Bristol, Virginia Public Schools has a consolidation plan for its elementary schools, but this plan is currently on hold. Perrigan said the discussion over school names likely would have happened sooner if the school system hadn’t been planning to close Stonewall Jackson and Washington-Lee Elementary anyway.
“So right now, our consolidation plan is to close three of our elementary schools. That is Highland View, Stonewall Jackson, and Washington-Lee,” said Perrigan. “Because we’ve put that on hold for the time being, it warrants discussion to discuss the names of those schools.”
Perrigan said he’s planning to research how the names were originally chosen for the schools. He said Stonewall Jackson was built in 1948. Washington-Lee was built in 1968 after the consolidation of George Washington Elementary and Robert E. Lee Elementary.
Taurean Bizzell is an alumnus of Stonewall Jackson Elementary. The 18-year-old remembers playing on the playground and running around the gym. But he has no memory of ever learning about his school’s namesake.
“I really didn’t learn much here, like about history. Not until I really got older in middle school and high school,” Bizzell said.
He personally thinks changing the names of the schools would be pointless.
“I mean the past is the past. So like I really don’t think you could really change anything,” he said. “So I believe changing the name is not really going to make a difference. It won’t make a difference in the education that you’re going to get from the school.”