Opinion: Rename school for late Henrico officer

By Jeff Katz
The Henrico County School Board has decided that the Harry Flood Byrd Middle School will undergo a name change. A community effort focused on the legacy of the late Harry Byrd correctly pointed out that he consistently spearheaded efforts to keep black children from being able to attend schools.

While some claimed that he was simply a product of his time, I agree with the community members who called for the name change. I believe that naming a school after a man who led the charge to deny an appropriate education to children is not just offensive, but borders on the obscene. Now that the decision has been made to change the name, we’re faced with the challenge of finding an appropriate replacement.

Henrico is a county rich with significance. We would not have a tough time finding any number of historical figures to pick from. We’d have plenty of interesting geographical tags to hang on the school. But, we also have an opportunity to send an amazing message to future students and staff at the building on Quioccasin Road.

As a boy, Henrico native Neil G. Griffin attended Byrd Middle School. Neil would eventually go on to graduate from Freeman High School and George Mason University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. He played baseball for the Tuckahoe Little League. He was a part of the track and field team in high school. Neil was also a passionate member of the Boy Scouts of America where he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. Fewer than 5 percent of Boy Scouts ever achieve the Eagle Scout rank.

Neil G. Griffin
Neil joined the Henrico County Police and, while still a rookie, received the Medal of Valor for singlehandedly apprehending an armed assailant without regard for his own personal safety. In total, Neil would spend 17 years with the Henrico Police. For the last 10 years of his police career, he would find himself walking some familiar hallways as the school resource officer for his alma mater, Byrd Middle School.

Neil was beloved by the Byrd Middle School family. Parents and children, teachers and administrators all saw Neil as a vital member of the educational team and school community. He offered support and friendship and worked tirelessly to ensure that children were able to learn in a safe environment. Neil protected and served without any regard to race, color or creed.

After an extended battle with cancer, Neil passed away March 8. I can think of no better person for whom the school should be named. Neil’s life was a study in selfless service, uncompromising honor and never- ending service to others. I hope you will join me and urge the members of the Henrico County Board of Education to please rename the former Byrd Middle School, The Neil G. Griffin Middle School. You can send your note to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and it will be delivered to each member.

Jeff Katz hosts the afternoon drive show on Newsradio 1140 WRVA each day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. He also is a member of the Marketing Committee for the Boy Scouts of America Heart of Virginia Council. The opinions expressed in his occasional column for the Citizen are his and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of T3 Media, LLC. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
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