‘Change the Name’ Activists Take School Name Change Fight To DCPS Headquarters

Mar 30, 2021

Progressive activists are continuing the fight to change the names of nine Jacksonville schools, this time at the main offices of the Duval County Schools District. 

The activists say schools should not be named for slave owners and Confederate generals, and plan to continue protesting weekly until the school board finalizes name changes later this summer. 

Activists also want DCPS teacher Amy Donofrio reinstated. Donofrio was removed from teaching duties and put under investigation by the district after she refused to take down a Black Lives Matter flag. A student-led petition to bring her back to the classroom amassed more than 15,000 signatures in just a few days. 

Donofrio is the co-founder of EVAC, a student group focused on reframing Black youth in Jacksonville from “at-risk” to “at-hope.” 

“People like Amy Donofrio, that dedicate their lives to our students, need to be cherished, not reassigned,” said Northside Coalition activist Bob Rutter. 

Tensions have been rising in recent weeks as the nine schools finished their community input meetings and opened up voting for new names. 

At a contentious meeting at the Riverside-area Robert E. Lee Senior High School last week, predominantly white alumni of the school argued for keeping the name of the Confederate general, while members of the predominantly Black student body spoke of the pain and embarrassment they felt going to a school named for someone who would have kept them in chains. 

“The student body is made up of mostly people of color, yet this building stands as a monument for a racist, sexist, confederate military leader who owned slaves,” said Lee High senior Amiyah Jacobs. “If students really matter, change the name!”

The nine schools being considered for renaming are:

  • Joseph Finegan Elementary School
  • Stonewall Jackson Elementary School
  • Jefferson Davis Middle School
  • Kirby-Smith Middle School
  • J.E.B. Stuart Middle School
  • Robert E. Lee High School
  • Jean Ribault Middle School
  • Jean Ribault High School
  • Andrew Jackson High School

Activists say they’ll protest outside the DCPS headquarters every Tuesday until the final votes are cast. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.