Only a few years after Confederate names and monuments across the South were removed in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, one Virginia county school board has decided to reverse course. Amid a divided community, the county’s school board has decided to return to sing the names of Confederate military leaders for two of its schools.

A move to honor Confederate leaders

On Friday morning, the Shenandoah County school board voted 5-1 to restore the previous names of two schools that had been renamed after Floyd’s death in 2020. Based on the decision, Mountain View High School will go back to being Stonewall Jackson High School, named after the famous Confederate general from what was once Virginia (now West Virginia). Honey Run Elementary School will now go back to the name Ashby Lee Elementary School, named after two Confederate military leaders from the state: Robert E. Lee and Turner Ashby.

The move to restore the Confederate names was based on a campaign launched by the conservative Coalition for Better Schools, which argued for the “cultural significance” of the names as well as the “historical context” behind them. Coalition for Better Schools stated that over 90 percent the 1,160 people who returned surveys about the issue said they wanted the Confederate names restored. By contrast, a citizen group against returning to the Confederate names has received 687 signatures for their online petition.

After a long meeting, supporters of the Confederate names win

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder in 2020, over 60 schools removed Confederate names. Shenandoah County is believed to be the first to reverse this decision and restore Confederate names, per Reuters. The school board meeting that led to the new name change was long and contentious, beginning Thursday evening and ending early Friday morning. A number of county residents, current students, and school board members spoke in favor of restoring the Confederate names. One board member who voted for the proposal claimed that he had received 144 emails in favor of the Confederate names versus 118 against them, NPR reported.

Meanwhile, Kyle Gutshall, the only board member who opposed the Confederate names, said his constituents have “been overwhelmingly in support of retaining the names the way they are,” according to NPR. Other critics of the Confederate names pointed out that the high school was only given the name Stonewall Jackson in 1959 as Virginia politicians fought against integrating schools after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling.

While a previous proposal to restore the Confederate names failed in 2022, this one has now passed, causing Shenandoah County to take a step backward.  Per CNN, the county — which is 75% white, 18% Hispanic and only 3% Black, according to state data — may end up being an outlier in the nation, or it may be setting a precedence for other conservative areas to follow.