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Judge dismisses lawsuit regarding Confederate school names

Judge dismisses lawsuit regarding Confederate school names

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ASHLAND -- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit regarding offensive school names and mascots at Hanover County Public Schools filed by the Hanover County NAACP last August.

The suit, originally filed against Hanover County government officials and the Hanover County. School Board, alleged continuing improper treatment of minority students by retaining the names that honor Confederate generals and leaders.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Judge Robert Payne had previously released Hanover County from the filing, leaving the school board as the sole defendant in the case.

Following a hearing earlier this year that considered the school board’s motion to dismiss, Payne issued his final order last week.

Payne’s ruling questioned the standing of the local NAACP to challenge the naming of the schools, and also said the statute of limitations had expired for those claims.

The suit originally named Hanover County and the school board as defendants and claimed that the “defendants are compelling plaintiff's members to express a view with which they disagree, namely that slavery and other values of the Confederacy should be endorsed and glorified.”

The complaint claimed that maintaining those names, in effect, creates “a school environment that denies African American students, including members of the NAACP, an equal opportunity to an education.”

Local NAACP president Robert Barnette said there are no statutes of limitation on racial injustice.

“The NAACP and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee are disappointed in the Court’s decision, but remain confident in the strength of their legal case and the righteousness of the cause,” Barnette said.

“We have seen other jurisdictions in Virginia and throughout the country do the right thing by removing symbols of a racist past. This is not the end of the fight of the Hanover County NAACP to ensure that the impact of the veneration of the Confederacy is eliminated in Hanover County,” he added.

The Hanover County School Board also released the following statement late last week:

“The School Board respects, values, and cares about all students and will continue to focus on providing them with the best educational opportunities possible.”

Avi Hopkins, a former Lee-Davis High School student, also reacted to the ruling in a FB post

“So, days after a pair of Robert E. Lee-Jefferson Davis High School Confederates students post a racist and inflammatory video suggesting the “hunting of n*****s”, Judge Robert Payne dismisses the NAACP case for changing of the names,” Hopkins said.

“The fact is that the school names honor treasonous men who fought for the enslavement of African people for the economic benefit of plantation owners and slave traders. The idea that people who are ancestors of slaves must then wear these names as slaves wore brands of their masters and be constantly reminded of a white supremacist ideology is a crime and a travesty,” he continued.

Payne’s dismissal could be challenged on appeal, but no official plans have been announced.

“We’ll explore all options and keep advocating for the school board to make the ethical and moral decision to change these school names,” Barnette said.

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