Katie LaPotin, Red Alert Politics, December 18, 2013
A Florida school board voted unanimously Monday to rename one of its high schools after decades of controversy and a Change.org petition that garnered more than 160,000 signatures. The reason: the school was named after a Confederate general and honorary Ku Klux Klan member who is believed to have ordered the execution of hundreds of black Union soldiers during the Civil War.
The Duval County School Board said that it was “following the will of its students” in making its decision to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School. The name change will take place next year once a new name is chosen, according to Duval County School Board Superintendent Nikolai Vitti.
“My vote tonight does not reflect judgment of a man,” school board member Ashley Smith Juarez, who supported the change, said according to the Los Angeles Times. ”I am not called to judge. My vote tonight honors the voice of students.”
Vitti hopes that the name change will teach the students that they can have an impact when they set their minds to something.
Support for the name change came primarily from students, with two-thirds of the students at the Black-majority school backing the movement. The student body was predominantly white when the school was founded.
“Everybody is glad about it,” De’jia Boatwright, a 15-year old 10th grader at the school, told the AP.
Less than half of the faculty at Forrest and just a handful of alumni, however, believe the name should be changed, citing the cost of the change and the fact that many questions still linger about Forrest’s involvement with the KKK and the execution of Black Union soldiers during the war.
“This issue happened 150 years ago. We have to move on. Let the issue go,” Jim Taylor, a 1978 Forrest graduate, told the AP. “If you guys change the name, this could be a waste of taxpayer money.”
The new name will be decided by the board members; potential choices include Westside High School and Firestone High School. The school district anticipates spending about $400,000 to accommodate the name change.
Forrest was a Confederate Calvary commander whose troops were involved in the massacre of hundreds of black Union Army soldiers at a Tennessee fort. A planter, slave trader and businessman, Forrest was believed to have distanced himself from the KKK when the group began to engage in violence and terrorism.