Hanover County’s Confederate school names will stay the same for now.

At a specially called meeting held Friday, the county School Board opted against taking action on the names of Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School.

The board is currently facing a lawsuit from the local chapter of the NAACP over the names, contending that they violate the constitutional rights of black students and their families by making them feel unwelcome and creating an unequal learning environment.

The board met in closed session for about 1½ hours before returning to open session. Chairman Roger Bourassa then announced that the board wouldn’t be resolving the lawsuit Friday.

“The board is not taking any action on this item tonight,” Bourassa said before the meeting was quickly adjourned and board members left out a back door.

Last week, the board scheduled the special meeting to discuss the potential resolution of the lawsuit, which the Hanover branch of the NAACP filed in August.

Robert Barnette, the president of the Hanover NAACP, said he was “disappointed” the board didn’t take any action, something the lawsuit calls for.

Last year, the board voted to keep the names following a monthslong process in which the majority of respondents to a district survey urged the board to leave the names undisturbed. The survey, conducted in early 2018, found that a little more than 3 in 4 respondents wanted the names and mascots kept. The nickname for Lee-Davis is the Confederates and for Stonewall Jackson it’s the Rebels.

One of the board members who wanted to change the names — Marla Coleman of the Henry District — wasn’t reappointed by the county Board of Supervisors earlier this year.

Grayson Jennings, a member of the Lee-Davis Class of 1970, traveled from his home in Lancaster County on Friday to be there for the meeting — one of the handful of nonmedia members of the public in attendance. Jennings wore a Lee-Davis T-shirt that had a circular logo on it, with images of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the middle, “Always Was” on the top and “Always Will Be” on the bottom.

“It’s a part of our history and heritage,” he said. “It’s pride and tradition.”

He thought the issue would fade away after the board’s 2018 decision and the overwhelming support for the names in the survey.

“The people have spoken,” he said, “but apparently the government doesn’t listen to the people anymore.”

The School Board is scheduled to meet again Dec. 10.

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jmattingly@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6012

Twitter: @jmattingly306

Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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