JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If you thought budgets sparked a big debate, the fight over renaming Nathan Bedford Forrest High School trumped it.
It was inevitable. After the letter from the Ku Klux Klan was sent to Duval County School Board member Jason Fischer, many knew the issue would come up at Thursday night's town hall meeting at Mandarin High School.
"I am an alumni of Nathan Bedford Forrest High school, School, class of 1989. I do not think the name should be changed," said a local neighbor.
With a beefed-up police presence looking on, those gathered prepared for a heated debate. They got it.
"You need to make up your mind," shouted one person. There was yelling from the crowd and a line of angry constituents impatiently waiting for their turn to speak.
"I don't think all of those cameras are out there for the budget," said another. Among those who spoke was a Daughter of the Confederacy.
"Nathan Bedford Forrest is a Confederate general and very much apart a part of my heritage. Do I believe he should be honored? ... Absolutely not," said Eleanor Wilson.
The letter from the Traditionalist American Knights encouraged the school board not to change the name of the school, despite admitting that Nathan Bedford Forrest was the Grand Wizard of the KKK, saying "(he) carried out his duties as the office demanded of him."
"He caught slaves, he killed slaves and most egregiously of all he killed 300 buffalo soldiers. Murdered them in cold blood," said Dr. Juan Gray, board chairman of Jacksonville's Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Leaders say those actions are not worthy of a being honored.
"Where is the logic in naming schools in our community," asked Gray.
Action News requested the latest policy Duval County has in place for naming or renaming schools, which was implemented in 1997. It was revised in 2008. It states "the name of a school shall not be of a person living or dead." The policy also states that if a request has been made to rename a school, input from the community must be solicited.
Ultimately, it comes down to the school board's final decision, and the board has 30 days to come up with it. School board member Connie Hall oversees District 5, where Forrest High School is located. We're told she, too, will hold a town hall-style meeting in the coming weeks to gather further input from those living within that school zone.