Four Shenandoah County residents have filed notice that they intend to appeal a decision to rename Lord Fairfax Community College.
Woodstock-based attorney Bradley Pollack filed the notice to appeal on Aug. 23 in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on behalf of William Holtzman, owner of Holtzman Oil Corp., and three Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors candidates: Gregory Kwiatkowski for District 1; Wade Guinn for District 4; and Randall Hamman for District 5.
The appeal seeks to challenge the July 22 decision by the State Board for Community Colleges, the governing board for the Virginia Community College System, to rename three community colleges, including LFCC.
The state board voted to change the name of LFCC to Laurel Ridge Community College; Chester-based John Tyler Community College to Brightpoint Community College; and to add an ampersand to Patrick & Henry Community College in Martinsville.
Two other schools — Thomas Nelson Community College, in Hampton, and Dabney S. Lancaster Community College, in Clifton Forge — will also be renamed if the state board approves them at its fall meetings.
The renaming decisions follow a July 2020 request from the state board asking all 23 Virginia community colleges to consider if their names are appropriate. Many educational institutions across the country have been considering if their names have possible racist ties following protests that erupted after the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer.
LFCC, which opened in Middletown in 1970, was named for Thomas, 6th Lord Fairfax (1693-1781), a wealthy landowner and slaveholder. The LFCC name change will become effective the 2022-2023 school year.
"They didn't do it right," Pollack said by phone interview of the process in which the July 22 renaming decision was made. He won't say exactly how the process was done incorrectly until after he has filed the actual appeal, which must be submitted by Sept. 22. The notice that they plan to appeal is required to be filed 30 days beforehand.
Pollack said he and the appellants want to reverse the "cancel culture" of renaming the schools. If renamings are to occur, then the commonwealth itself should be renamed since Virginia is named after Queen Elizabeth, who was known as the "Virgin Queen" and was involved in the slave trade, Pollack said.
"[Lord Fairfax] was a wonderful man," said Pollack, a member of the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors who previously challenged the renaming of two county public schools. "[He] never offended anybody."
The three Board of Supervisor candidates are challenging incumbents who either voted against the board sending a letter to LFCC opposing the name change, or didn't support taking action on it, Pollack said.
None of the appellants returned a request for comment by email.
"Millions of people wanted this done," Pollack said.
While LFCC is the local institution, Pollack said the appellants challenged the renaming decision of all five schools because they are local leaders and felt it was their "duty," as no one else has stepped up to do so.
"Four people of Shenandoah County are challenging this," Pollack said. "You better be careful about spending money that could be overturned."
Pollack said he was not aware of any similar legal challenges.
Jeffrey Kraus, spokesperson for the the Virginia Community College System, said the system is aware of the notice to appeal but declined to say if the state board is reconsidering its decision or preparing to fight the litigation. Kraus said he was not aware of any other legal challenges to the renaming decisions.
Pollack previously filed two petitions challenging the renaming of Shenandoah County-based Stonewall Jackson High School to Mountain View High School and Ashby Lee Elementary School to Honey Run Elementary School. Both petitions were dismissed due to a lack of legal standing.
Pollack stated this appeal is different because there are different regulations governing the State Board for Community Colleges. But he again declined to say what regulations exactly were violated until after he has filed the appeal.
Winchester Star Staff Writer Anna Merod contributed to this report.