Prince William County Schools has an “action plan to combat racism” that involves erasing the district’s complicated history with racism by renaming schools and banning the Confederate flag.
Superintendent Steven Walts sent an email to all staff, parents and students laying out his vision for promoting anti-racism to the district’s 91,500 students, and it essentially revives a 2017 plan from former school board chairman Ryan Sawyers to rename Stonewall Jackson High and middle schools near Manassas, Potomac Local News reports.
The move comes on the heels of the termination of an assistant baseball coach at Battlefield High School over allegedly racist remarks on social media, and nationwide protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody.
“Recent events, locally and nationally, have shown that the voices of many in our community are not being heard. As a majority-minority school division, we must not simply celebrate diversity and equity, we must actively pursue it for all of our more than 91,500 students,” Walts wrote.
“Furthermore, we must be vigilant in promoting antiracism,” he continued. “In so doing, we must ensure that employees who work in our schools are aligned with these practices. If they are not, they must be removed from our classrooms. Words matter, symbols matter, and actions matter.”
Walts’ “action plan” immediately begins the process for renaming the schools, proposes an amendment for the district’s Code of Conduct to ban the wearing or flying the Confederate flag on school property, and creates a community panel to review the district’s relationship with the Prince William County Police Department, according to WRIC.
Potomac Local News reports:
In addition to the plan, the division will continue to ‘pursue equity across our Division in a multitude of forms, from access, to curriculum, to individual and group behavior’ as well as require staff to complete training in Culturally Responsive Instruction, according to the email.
“We must all understand our own mindsets and recognize the viewpoints of others, in order to provide effective learning across a diverse student body, and promote a culture of respect and understanding for all,” Walts wrote.
The “action plan to combat racism” is receiving mixed reactions from local leaders.
School board Chairman Babur Lateef supports renaming both schools.
“I think the school board members have had dissuasions over the course of years about this renaming of schools, and I think this may be the right time to do this,” Lateef said. “We are going to look at this issue and seriously consider it.”
Board member Lillie Jessie, however, raised issues with the lack of input on the plan in a post to Twitter.
“I was made aware of a plan to change the name of Stonewall Jackson High School or Middle School,” Jessie wrote. “The plans were made without my input and without community input.”
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, a Confederate general and soldier in the Civil War, is regarded as one of the most gifted military commanders in U.S. history. He fought in both the first and second battles of Manassas and died at the age of 39 following a battle in Chancellorsville near Fredericksburg, the News reports.