Norfolk School Board chairwoman suggests changing Confederate-named schools


NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A school leader in Norfolk has suggested looking into changing the names of city schools that have Confederate names.

Dr. Noelle Gabriel, chairwoman of the Norfolk School Board, suggested Wednesday that Norfolk Public Schools should open the conversation about “Norfolk Public School’s own ties to painful history.”

Gabriel said there are at least three schools that have Confederate-related names.

A school division spokeswoman said those schools are Maury High, Taylor Elementary and Ruffner Academy.

Gabriel said the school board has a July 14 “governance training” that will cover equity issues, “so the framework is perfectly aligned” to discuss the possibility of changing school names.

Here are Gabriel’s full remarks:

“I would like to address an important issue collaboratively with my colleagues on the board. As we are all aware, across our country meaningful conversations have been taking place around the issues of race and equity, and the need for solidarity in a commitment to addressing America’s painful past. These conversations have also become pointed and actionable at the local level. Indeed, we have seen some immediate action with the removal of Confederate statues here in our city and Portsmouth as well.

I believe each and every one of us is committed to advancing excellence and equity in Norfolk Public Schools and we all know that can happen if we have the bravery to commit to candid conversations and courageous problem-solving. One such conversation that needs to take place relates to Norfolk Public School’s own ties to painful history. At least three schools have names that hearken back to Confederate alliances. We can all agree this is an issue that deserves our collective examination. The question before us is how can we best initiate that examination? I do have an idea I would like to share with you and please know I welcome your thoughts. The Board has an ideal time ahead of us with the July 14 governance training. As you are aware, our agenda is being built around equity issues so the framework is perfectly aligned for discussion of this nature. I would hope that we could commit to developing a thoughtful process for examining the possibility of name changes. This will not be a conversation isolated to the board, but candid ones that must include community stakeholders, alumni, parents and students. There may be strong opinions on either side. But they are dialogues we must embark upon. For if there is to be change on this front, it will be change that ultimately will have to be made by the School Board.

I look forward to hearing your input on how to best move ahead from here.”

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