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The WJCC School Board unanimously approved its first ever policy for naming schools Tuesday night.
The policy, included in full below, would not affect any schools currently named for people and would permit future schools to be named only for individuals who have been deceased for more than 10 years.
“It is the responsibility of the Williamsburg-James City County School Board to determine the name of schools and school facilities in the division. The Board will solicit and accept input from the public regarding the names of schools and school facilities but reserves the right to make the final decision regarding the name of any school or school facility.
Suggestions regarding the name of a school or school facility must be in writing, must state the name of the person or group making the suggestion and must state the reasons supporting the suggestion. The School Board may create a committee to make recommendations to the Board on the naming of any school or school facility.
Among other requirements, and effective with the adoption of this policy, when naming any school or other school division facility for an individual, the School Board will consider naming such facility only for an individual who has been deceased for at least ten years.
The Board may rename a school or school facility upon a determination that it is appropriate to do so. The procedure for renaming a school or school facility will be the same as the procedure outlined above.”
The only change from the draft presented June 21 is the elimination of the phrase “absent extraordinary circumstances.” During that meeting, school board members expressed concern about the line functioning as a loophole and allowing people who have been dead fewer than 10 years to become a school’s namesake.
The policy was drafted after some former WJCC students and community members campaigned for the name of Rawls Byrd Elementary School to be changed.
They recall Rawls Byrd, the WJCC Schools superintendent from 1928 to 1964, as a vocal segregationist who kept the schools separated by race for 10 years after the Supreme Court declared racial segregation unconstitutional.
In an interview with WYDaily last month, Lafayette Jones, a former WJCC student leading the name change campaign, argued the requirement a person be dead 10 years is “arbitrary and capricious.”
“Deleting that time period and making the determining factor be that the individual would be deceased, that would clarify things,” Jones said, adding that someone’s past transgressions can come to light at any time, whether they’ve been dead 10, 15 or 20 years.
The policy takes effect immediately.