A public elementary school is being renamed based on the recommendation of its students. Davis Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary, named after the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, will be called Barack Obama Magnet International Baccalaureate Elementary once the change is official at the beginning of the next school year.
As reported by NBC News, the Jackson, Mississippi elementary school’s PTA president, Janelle Jefferson, announced the decision on Tuesday night.
Discussing the change, Jefferson stated, “[Community members] know who [Davis] was and what he stood for.” She went on to say, “This has a great impact on them, because [Obama] is who they chose out of anybody else they could. This is the person that the whole school supported. He was their number one choice.”
The Davis Magnet community was asked to submit new names by the PTA. Students, parents, and members of the school staff were allowed to provide their recommendations over a two-week period, and voting commenced on October 5.
According to Jefferson, students researched their selections and gave presentations about their chosen candidate during an assembly that was held before the vote.
The final decision was made on October 6.
School buildings are required to be named “for persons of good character and prominence who have made outstanding contributions to the school system,” as stated in the Jackson Public Schools Board’s facility naming policy. “A facility named to honor a person shall not be renamed except for compelling reasons.”
Jefferson stated that the approximately 98 percent African American student body chose Obama because they were alive to experience his administration and felt they shared similar principles.
Jake McGraw, a University of Mississippi William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation public policy coordinator, said, “Every generation has a right to choose how it represents itself.”
He continued, “Having a school where there was input from parents, teachers, and students – along with the school board – it seems like a model for how these decisions should be approached across the country.”
The change was announced as the nationwide debate on whether Confederate statues should remain in place in various parts of the country as well as whether building names should be updated if they honor a figure from US history that could spur racial tension.
“When you realize who this school is named for, I think that it’s a positive thing to be a part of this movement,” said Jefferson. “We want what’s best for our kids. We want our kids to identify with persons who they can relate to.”