School Named after KKK Leader Might be Renamed
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) - The Duval County School Board is moving to change the name of a high school named after the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Florida Times-Union reports that board members voted unanimously Friday to start a process that could rename Nathan B. Forrest High School.
Forrest was a slave owner, slave catcher and a leader in the Confederate Army who helped found the KKK. Supporters of changing the name say it would help heal wounds from the past and respect today's community wish for a different name.
"It's time to move forward with the renaming of Nathan B. Forrest High," said Constance Hall, a board member who has led the renaming effort. "It's time to really put it to bed, put it to rest, so we can focus on the children of Duval public schools."
The superintendent must now seek input from various groups, including the PTA, students, school staff, alumni and nearby residents. The school board also suggested a panel discussion for students on Forrest, who later renounced the Klan's violence and racism, and at least one town hall meeting.
Debate over the school's name has raged for decades.
In 2008, the school board defied local poll results and voted along racial lines to retain the name of the former Klan leader -- with two black members voting to change it and five white members voting to keep it. On Friday, the board voted unanimously to begin the renaming process.
It's unclear when the board will vote on the fate of the name, but members said it is unlikely officials will be ready by the January board meeting.
Opponents have said changing the name would waste education dollars. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the last time a name change was considered in 2008 the cost was estimated at $570,000. Supporters say they can raise private donations.
"Whatever it costs, it's worth it to correct an injustice," said Terri Neal, a member of the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition who attended the meeting.
If the board approves renaming Forrest High, it will begin another process for choosing a new name. Policy bars the board from naming the school after another person, dead or alive.
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