JACKSONVILLE, FL – A high school named for the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) has sparked outrage in a Jacksonville community, and now more than 75,000 people all across the country are calling for the Duval County School Board to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest High School with a fast-growing petition on Change.org.
Omotayo "Ty" Richmond feels it’s inappropriate for children like his daughter to attend classes in a school that honors a KKK leader and slave trader. When he learned that more than half of the students at the high school are African American, Richmond launched a Change.org campaign in hopes of starting a conversation about changing the school’s name.
"Jacksonville is where I call home, and it’s where I’m raising my daughter," says Ty Richmond who started the campaign on Change.org. "The KKK is a symbol of racism and I don’t think my daughter, or any student, should have to attend a school that honors the Klan’s first Grand Wizard. There are many former and current students who agree with me and are signing my petition. This is a community issue, and we’re showing that the community is ready for change."
Richmond hopes the petition will show administrators of the Duval County School District that this is a change students and Jacksonville community members want to see. In just a few weeks, more than 75,000 people have signed on to Richmond’s petition. More than 10,000 of those signatures come from Florida, including many Jacksonville residents, and dozens of current and former students who are leaving comments for the administration:
Jacksonville resident Jennifer S.: "[I signed] Because I work in the Duval County Public Schools, and hate the idea of my students attending a school named after a man of hatred."
Jacksonville parent Dawn B.: "My son is a senior at Forrest HS. I was watching a documentary about this KKK leader and was disgusted that my son, who is black attends a school named after a man who murdered and victimized many blacks in his lifetime. I would love to see this school named after the first casualty of Desert Storm, Captain Speichter, who was a graduate of Forrest HS."
Jacksonville native Emily Dale: "As a nearly 88 year-old native of Jacksonville who attended local schools here. I believe "the dead past should bury its dead" and the school be renamed for someone who has no blight on their character."
Jacksonville native Vanessa W.: "There is so much power in a name and, unfortunately, the potency in Nathan B Forrest High School’s name is detrimental to our students and community. The Civil War saw the failed division of our strong country, and successful creation of a terrorist group. To celebrate a legacy rooted in separation and hatred is to completely undermine all the values we seek to instill in our young scholars. As a product of Duval County Public Schools and current public school teacher, I challenge governing bodies to create a better future by honoring a less shameful past."
Signatures on Ty Richmond’s petition are delivered via email to Duval County School District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. Vitti has said he would "support a name change recommendation if it were brought organically to the [school] board by the community."