Hundreds sign student-led petition to change Madison high school name

Hundreds sign student-led petition to change Madison high school name

A James Madison Memorial High School student wants the name of the school changed, citing the past U.S. president’s history as a slaveholder.

Mya Berry, a senior, said the past four years at the school have been positive and enriching, but believes the school’s name is not fair to her and other black students.

“I don’t want this school name representing who I am and the other students,” Berry said.

The high school has been named James Madison Memorial since it was established in 1966, but Berry said that’s far too long.

“Not a lot of people know who James Madison is, and there’s already disparity, there’s already an education gap between white and black students,” Berry said. “Why add on to that with having a school named after a slave owner?”

Inspired by an assignment in her social justice class to create change in the community, Berry created a petition on now nearly 700 signatures long. On Monday, she went before the Madison Metropolitan School Board asking for the “James” in James Madison Memorial to be dropped.

“It being Madison Memorial is better than James Madison Memorial,” Berry explained.

In a statement, Memorial Principal Jay Affeldt wrote, “I have met and will continue to meet with Ms. Berry and other student leaders, to discuss how we can best move forward. I want to truly hear their perspectives, and to determine how I can best support them.”

For Berry, that means a name change within the next year.

“There’s also a Thomas Jefferson Middle School right next door. He was also a slave owner, so maybe that one can be the next one,” she said.

The name change would need to be voted on by the school board to take effect.