Forrest High Is History Following Unanimous Vote

Dec 16, 2013

The class of 2014 will be the last to graduate from Nathan Bedford Forrest High School.

At a special meeting Monday evening, the Duval County School Board voted unanimously to rename the school, ending decades of debate.

Students of Nathan Bedford Forrest High school prepare to march in Jacksonville's 2013 Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 11, 2013.
Credit Patrick Donges / WJCT

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti made the recommendation to change the name following weeks of input from community members, alumni, and current students.

“Throughout this whole process, the engagement process, I tried to rely on what my head was saying and what my heart was saying and I’ve arrived at the conclusion that the school’s name should change,” he said.

Vitti told the board and a large crowd of attendees that a survey taken by students at the school showed a majority of students wished to change the name.

The board voted following about an hour and a half of public comments, during which opinions remained split on whether to change the name.

The next step will be choosing a new name. According to Vitti, current students have two favorites.

“The students who believed the name should change for the most part recommended Westside High School and Firestone High School," Vitti said, "and so we will likely give them a ballot with those two names being the option.”

Community members await the decision by the Duval County School Board on whether to rename Forrest High School. The board voted unanimously to go forward with the change.
Credit Cyd Hoskinson / WJCT

Students, faculty and staff will be asked to vote on a new name and possibly a new mascot before school lets out for the holidays tomorrow. As for parents, alumni and other community stakeholders, Vitti said he wants to keep the doors open through Saturday so that they can vote as well. 

He plans to recommend a new name during the board's regular meeting on January 7.

The name will officially change July 1 at a cost of around $400,000.

The vote comes after an online petition in support of renaming the school gained popularity this summer. An identical vote failed to pass in 2008.

Forrest was a Confederate general, slave trader, and among the founding leaders of the Ku Klux Klan.

You can follow Cyd Hoskinson on Twitter @cydwjctnews and Patrick Donges @patrickhdonges.