One Jacksonville resident launched a Change.org petition that has so far garnered over 150,000 signatures, asking the Duval County School Board to change the name. The board members are only people with the power to do so — and, back in 2008, they voted against a name change by a vote of 5 to 2.
“I don’t want my daughter, or any student, going to a school named under those circumstances,” the petition’s author, resident Omotayo Richmond writes, “This is a bad look for Florida — with so much racial division in our state, renaming Forrest High would be a step toward healing.”
Richmond has some high-profile opponents: The KKK is getting involved in the fight.
All seven members of the board received a letter from the Traditionalist American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan urging them not to consider a name-change. It calls the school’s namesake a “valiant man of honor,” and justifies the KKK as “a group of vigilance to protect defenseless southerners from criminal activities perpetrated against them by Yankee carpet baggers, scalawags, and many bestial blacks and other criminal elements out for revenge or just taking part in criminal mischief.”
One school board member spoke out against the letter, saying, “At first I thought it might be some sort of a gag or political stunt and then as I looked into it, I found out that it was an actual organization … I was outraged by it.”
The school’s superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti, agrees. “I don’t think it sends the right message to the African-American community. I also don’t think it represents what we want to be as Jacksonville,” he said.
Vitti plans on opening up town hall community discussions this month about the school’s name.