Davis Magnet IB Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi, is getting a new name next school year. The local school board allowed the PTA and the community to decide which “persons of good character and prominence… made outstanding contributions to the school system” and deserved to have their name on the school. The person chosen: Barack Obama.
The reason the former president made the cut from the other names submitted is because he is black. Before the final vote, students at the predominantly black school gave presentations on the name they preferred.
“They could relate to Barack Obama because of his achievements, because he looks like them,” said PTA president Janelle Jefferson.
Jefferson said the new name will “reflect a person who fully represents ideals and public stances consistent with what we want our children to believe about themselves.”
The final vote occurred on October 5, to name the school Barack Obama Magnet IB.
So, why should a school with a seemingly innocuous name like “Davis” need to be renamed? Because it was originally named after Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
“Jefferson Davis, although infamous in his own right, would probably not be too happy about a diverse school promoting the education of the very individuals he fought to keep enslaved being named after him,” Janelle Jefferson argued before the board. (Yes, Davis School needs to be renamed, but Janelle Jefferson gets to keep her Confederate-sounding name.)
And did she say diverse? That’s funny because enrollment in the current 2017 school year is 98% black.
Other schools named after the Confederacy at Jackson Public Schools (JPS) are also on the chopping block, including George Elementary, named after Brigadier General James Zachariah George, and Lee Elementary; however, no decisions on those changes have been made.
It's shocking that JPS would even tackling this issue at a time when education budgets are tight and when Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has been asked to declare the JPS in a state of emergency and start the process of the state taking over the school district. But budgets be damned when personal politics are at play. Besides, kids can't learn unless the building they learn in is named after someone who looks like them.