Roanoke school to look into changing the name of Stonewall Jackson Middle School

Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Roanoke to form committee to research a possible name change. (Photo: Annie Andersen)

ROANOKE, Va. (WSET) -- The Southern Poverty Law Center reports there are 21 schools in Virginia named after well-known Confederate generals.

One is in Roanoke, but its name could be changing.

"Roanoke City School Board has received about 4 requests to change the name of Stonewall Jackson Middle School. And the process generally for the schools is for a committee to take a look at whether we should be changing the name," said school board chairwoman Annette Lewis.

A young father in the area, DeAnthony Borders, says he doesn't mind the name. "I mean, I know about his little history, but I ain't let it phase me too much."

The name has been that way since the beginning, when it was built in 1923, according to schools spokesperson Justin McLeod.

But as conversations spark around the country, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu questioned if honoring a Confederate general inspires students.

"Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city," said Landrieu. He asked,

Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too? We all know the answer to these very simple questions. When you look into this child's eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do.

Roanoke school board chairwoman Annette Lewis argues students have a lot to be inspired about. "Certainly we look at the previous president that we had. Who would have thought we would have had an African-American president," she pointed out.

Borders says the name shouldn't be the inspiration, learning should inspire students. He said, "I think we should keep it the same. It's just a name. We should be more worried about their education than the name of the school."

Lewis agreed, explaining that's what their focus has been until the complaints were made. "Our focus has been on the education, and we're looking forward to a fully accredited middle school, so that's where our attention has been."

Any possible changes will likely take a while. Lewis said the committee will not even start to discuss the name for a few weeks or even a month.

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