HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The Henrico County School Board has voted unanimously to rename Harry F. Byrd Middle School Thursday afternoon. School board members met to discuss a possible name change. After the discussion, members voted to nix the name.
The next step in the process is to choose a new name for the middle school. During a Tuesday public input meeting, the School Board asked residents to suggest names to rename the school.
The West End school is named after the former United States Senator and Virginia Governor who, among other things, fought to keep Virginia schools segregated. In addition, when the school opened in 1971, Harry F. Byrd’s son, Harry Jr., voiced his displeasure with the school being integrated.
"I think that whoever they name it after should be somebody who sends a positive message almost the opposite of Harry Byrd that should be able to do whatever they want to do regardless of their race or circumstance," said Hermitage High School student Jordan Chapman.
Chapman helped start a group lobbying the Henrico School Board to change the school's name. Over the past year, she joined forces for some parents of Byrd students who shared her beliefs.
She helped collect hundreds of signatures from supporters of a name change.
Thursday’s vote began a 30 day comment period where members of the public can express their views on what the school should be renamed. If you would like to comment on that you can contact the Henrico County Clerk to the School Board.
The earliest the School Board can make a decision on what the school should be renamed is in April.
Tuesday public input session
Tuesday’s session was the second of two public input sessions on a possible name change.
Students, parents and community members spoke for nearly two hours about their opinions on whether or not to rename the middle school. Many people agreed the name should be changed due to Byrd's stance on desegregation.
"Now children are asking the question, why is the school named Harry Byrd, with the things that he promoted," said Chaldea Montague.
While others like Bill Jackson said the name should remain because it's a part of our southern history.
"Where does it stop, any malcontent comes in saying 'I find this name offensive,'" he said.