NAACP challenges legality of Confederate names on Virginia schools

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By Gregory S. Schneider – Washington Post

RICHMOND — A local chapter of the NAACP has filed a federal lawsuit against Hanover County and its school board over two schools that commemorate Confederate leaders, making a novel legal argument that says the names should be changed on constitutional grounds.

The suit argues that Lee-Davis High School and Stonewall Jackson Middle School violate the rights of African American students by forcing them “to champion a legacy of segregation and oppression in order to participate in school activities.”

That violates the First Amendment’s guarantee of being free from “compelled speech” and the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, the suit alleges.

“We believe it’s one of the first times that these well-established legal principles have been used to challenge the issue of Confederate and segregation legacy names in schools,” said Kaitlin Banner, deputy legal director for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, which filed the suit on behalf of the Hanover County branch of the NAACP.

The NAACP is asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to “eradicate the vestiges of a shameful, racist educational system in Hanover County” by ordering the schools to be renamed.

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