Cobb County Schools scraps committee to rename Wheeler, Walton high schools

The Cobb County School Board has decided to halt plans to consider renaming two Cobb County high schools named after men historians believe held white supremacist values.

Students told FOX 5's Alex Whittler the unexpected decision to halt the formation of a name-changing committee silences people in the county, whether they want the schools’ names changed or not.

A controversial vote putting the possibility of new names for Wheeler and Walton high schools on hold and forcing three high school students to change the focus of their public comments.

"I came here prepared tonight to urge the formation of the approved name changing committee only to find that it had been dissolved earlier today," Nina Kesava said during Thursday's public comment period immediately after the idea of the committee was scrapped during a work session.

The nearly 15-minute discussion Thursday dissolved a name-change committee that was just approved this summer.

Petitions to change the high schools’ names garnered thousands of signatures in February.

"Joseph Wheeler High School was named in 1965, the year Cobb [County] integrated," Wheeler senior Caroline Hugh said. "It makes very clear the intentions behind the name."

Wheeler was a Confederate general. George Walton’s family owned slaves.

The Georgia Department of Education reported the majority of Wheeler students are Black and more than half of Walton students are white.

"As elected officials, you need to allow us to initiate this conversation so we can explore it together," Sydney Spessard said. She also attends Wheeler.

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Board Chair Brad Wheeler was the fourth and deciding vote at the time of the committee’s approval.

Some board members were named to it, but Wheeler said he’s changed his mind after speaking with people in the community.

"This should be a decision for elected officials," he said Thursday.

Board members Jaha Howard and Charisse Davis stressed committees can consist of solely board members.

"This committee can happen if we want it to," Dr. Howard said Monday. "There was a moment a few months ago when the majority of us wanted to and now after the election, the majority of us does not want to," he said.

There are no plans to re-establish a committee as of late November 2020.

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