Students want

school name changes

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

I am disappointed and concerned that the Hanover School Board has chosen not to resolve the lawsuit that it currently faces about changing the names and mascots of two of the district’s schools.

Students cannot learn if they are in a space where they are threatened, disempowered or made to feel diminished as human beings. And yet every year, students step forward again and again to explain with painful forthrightness that the names and mascots of these schools deliver a clear message of exclusion and hate. Requiring attendance at those schools is, as the students have told us, bullying — a way of forcing them to be complicit in the celebration of people and causes that claimed those students are not even human. The students say this, and yet the School Board and others in our community ignore them or, even worse, deny the fact of the trauma they are suffering by pointing out that other students who attended those schools have not felt that way. This is like saying child hunger is not a global problem because you fed your own children dinner.

All educators, including School Board members, have a primary obligation to protect all of our students and take active steps to make sure that they all know that they are valued, safe and loved. The names and mascots of these schools utterly fail that obligation; indeed, they actively thwart it by encouraging and normalizing other, even more radical forms of bigotry and racism. Whatever one might believe about the intentions behind the original naming of the schools, the fact now, in our time, is that those names clearly announce to students of color that they are not welcome. We know that because the students have told us so.

Believe the students. Change the names.

Matteo Pangallo.

Ashland.

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