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Tuesday
Jun192018

Facebook campaign tops $5 million to reunite immigrant families separated at border

iStock/Thinkstock(SILICON VALLEY) -- In a little over three days, a fundraising campaign on Facebook has topped $6 million to help reunite undocumented families split up by the U.S. government at the Mexico border.

The fundraiser page, "Reunite an immigrant parent with their child," was launched on Saturday by three Facebook employees. As of Tuesday night more than 146,000 people had donated to the fund, which was fetching more than $61,000 an hour in donations. Several people donated $250,000 each.

"We are collectively revulsed at what's happening to immigrant families on our southern border," the fund's organizers wrote the campaign's Facebook page.

The page was launched by Silicon Valley power trio Malorie Lucich and Dave and Charlotte Willner, who were among the original employees at Facebook and now work at Pinterest, the popular image-collecting site. The Willners also work at Airbnb.

The goal of the fund is to raise $8 million.

The money will go to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, and provide legal aid for undocumented immigrant parents arrested on suspicion of crossing the border illegally.

"In times when we often think that the news can't possibly get worse, it does -- we learned ... that 2000 children (many of them infants and toddlers) have been separated from their parents in just six weeks under President Trump's 'zero tolerance' policy," the organizers wrote.

Bond for the parents arrested at the border has been set at a minimum of $1,500, according to RAICES. Unlike in the criminal justice system, bail bond companies either do not help people in immigration proceedings or impose strict requirements, according to RAICES.

President Donald Trump and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the administration's controversial immigration policies on Monday.

As part of the "zero-tolerance" policy, federal prosecutors have been ordered to file criminal charges against any adult caught crossing the border illegally, including those traveling with minors. The children are being placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services and adults are apprehended by law enforcement.

"Children are not being used as a pawn," Nielsen said at a press briefing Monday. "We are trying to protect the children."

She and Trump said the administration is enforcing laws already on the books.

"The voices most loudly criticizing the enforcement of our current laws are those whose policies created this crisis and whose policies perpetuate it," Nielsen said.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions scoffed at claims that the policy harkens back to Nazi Germany after former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, who served mostly under George W. Bush, tweeted a picture of a Nazi concentration camp and wrote, "Other governments have separated mothers and children."

"Well, it's a real exaggeration," Sessions said in an interview Monday on Fox News. "Of course, in Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country."

The policy of separating parents from children at the border had been widely denounced by both Democrats and Republicans. Former first lady Laura Bush penned an op-ed in The Washington Post calling the policy "cruel" and "immoral," and comparing it to Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Lucich and the Willners called the policy "a grave American moral failing."

"These children don't know where their parents are," they wrote on the Facebook fundraising page. "Their parents aren't allowed to communicate with them while in custody. The government hasn't set up a system to reunite separated parents and children if one or both are ultimately released. In many cases, parents have been deported without their children -- sometimes, young children are deported without their parents."

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Tuesday
Jun192018

Boater and 2 dogs rescued from tree after their boat sank in Louisiana

ABC News(BOSSIER PARISH, LA.) -- An elderly neighbor with a boat became a hero in Louisiana on Monday when he and two sheriff’s deputies saved a man and two dogs stuck in a tree after his boat sank.

The watery rescue scene unfolded on Lake Bistineau after the stranded boater made a series of desperate 911 calls.

Later identified by law enforcement officials as Christopher Burns, the man tried calling 911 multiple times before being cut off, only getting into contact with the dispatchers after they repeatedly tried calling him back.

“That’s a real blessing,” said Lt. Bill Davis, the public information officer for Bossier County Sheriff’s Office, going on to call the dispatchers “tenacious.”

Once he finally got through, Burns told the dispatchers that he was trying to save himself by clinging to a cypress tree with his two dogs.

Burns, an electronic maintenance manager, was wearing a life jacket but his dogs weren't. Davis said “he had been holding tightly to them to make sure they were OK, and he had been there a good 45 minutes or so.”

Burns told ABC News that was on a boat ride with his dogs, a samoyed husky and a sabrina husky, when water quickly flooded the craft.

Recalling the incident, Burns told ABC News he was wondering "how long it’s going take to get somebody out here. How long can I hold on for?"

He said he was more worried about his dogs than about himself.

“I don’t think they really understood what was happening or what was going on,” he said, adding that they were about 400 yards from land and the water was about 10 feet deep.

Deputies Tim Wynn and Duane Washington were dispatched to Burns’ home. From there, they checked with neighbors to see if they had a boat they could borrow.

“Our deputies went from door to door checking with people, and we finally got in touched with a gentlemen, and he said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a pontoon boat right here,’” Davis said.

Washington told ABC News that the kind neighbor was retired septuagenarian Thomas Murthree, who didn't hesitate to help with the rescue.

"He said, 'Let's go, I have a pontoon boat at the back. Let’s go out on the water,'" Washington recalled.

The two deputies and Murthree got on his boat and set out to find Burns and his dogs. They found him about 10 minutes later.

“He was very happy to see our folks,” Davis said. "I’ve just met him this morning with his wife. They have no children. These dogs are their children."

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Tuesday
Jun192018

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces plan to sue Trump administration over child separation policy

Drew Angerer/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its controversial immigration policies, including the "callous and inhumane" practice of separating children from their parents at the U.S. border, he announced Tuesday.

The state of New York will file a multi-agency lawsuit accusing the Trump administration of violating the Constitutional rights of thousands of immigrant children and their parents, according to a press release.

At least 70 children are currently staying in 10 different federal shelters in New York, and that number is expected to rise, Cuomo said.

"The Trump administration's policy to tear apart families is a moral failing and a human tragedy," Cuomo said. "We will not tolerate the Constitutional rights of children and their parents being violated by our federal government. New York will act and file suit to end this callous and deliberate attack on immigrant communities, and end this heartless policy once and for all."

The governor has directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Department of Health and the Office of Children and Family Services to commence legal action against the federal government's "separation of families" policy.

The lawsuit also accuses the Trump administration of violating the terms of the 1997 Flores Settlement, which "set national standards regarding the detention, release, and treatment of all children in immigration detention and prioritizes the principle of family unity," according to the release.

On Tuesday, Cuomo wrote an open letter to Vice President Mike Pence condemning the federal government's "zero-tolerance" policy and urging the administration to "end the mistreatment of immigrant families at the border."

On Tuesday, Trump continued to defend his immigration policies, telling a group at the National Federation of Independent Businesses in Washington, D.C., that the practice of separating families at the border is being caused by "crippling loopholes" in immigration laws supported by the Democrats.

"Under current law, we have only two policy options to respond to this massive crisis. We can either release all illegal immigrant families [of] minors who show up at the border from Central America or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry. Those are the only two options, totally open borders for criminal prosecution for lawbreaking. And you want to be able to do that," Trump told the audience. "If we don't want people pouring into our country. We want them to come in through the process, through the legal system, and we want ultimately a merit-based system where people come in based on merit."

Trump also said that while he wants the U.S. to be a "country with heart," the only option is to stop people from entering the country in the first place.

"I don't want judges, I want border security. I don't want to try people. I don't want people coming in," he said. "If a person comes in and puts one foot in our ground, is essentially welcome to America, welcome to our country, and you never get them out."

More than 75 former U.S. attorneys are calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to stop family separations. The bipartisan group wrote in a letter to Sessions that the decision to implement a policy that has led to more than 2,000 children taken from their parents "falls squarely on your shoulders."

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Tuesday
Jun192018

Vexed for years by elusive serial rapist, D.C. authorities indict a DNA sample

FBI(WASHINGTON) -- Federal prosecutors in Washington D.C. announced the first ever "John Doe" indictment of a still unknown suspect's DNA on Tuesday, as part of an ongoing investigation into a string of violent sexual assaults of women in hotel rooms in the D.C. area between 1998 and 2006.

The long-unsolved serial rapist case has vexed area law enforcement for years. The suspect, who became known as the "D.C.-area hotel rapist" terrorized mostly hotel maids by sneaking into rooms they were cleaning and sexually assaulting them.

"This individual preyed on members of the D.C. region for nearly a decade," Washington Metropolitan Police Department Chief of Police Peter Newsham said in a statement. "We have not deviated from our goal of holding this person accountable for his heinous actions and feel confident that our recent progress will lead to his identification."

Six of nine attacks on women in hotel rooms have been definitively linked to the suspect through DNA, and suspicious activity reported in five other area hotels may be related, authorities said. The attacks unfolded in hotels in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C.

In several of the incidents, the assailant used a box cutter, a necktie or a rope to threaten or assault his victims.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Jessie K. Liu said in the statement that "despite the passage of time, we have never forgotten these victims."

“Working with the public and our law enforcement partners," he said in the statement, "we are hopeful that we finally will be able to hold this serial rapist accountable for his brazen crimes,” said Jessie K. Liu, U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Authorities also released a relatively new type of suspect sketch - not a composite created based on eyewitness descriptions, but one created in a lab using the suspect's DNA to produce a composite sketch of the possible suspect which includes eye color, skin color, hair color and a face based on biogeographic ancestry with age-progression.

Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI's) Washington Field Office Matthew Desarno urged the public to take a close look at the suspect sketch.

"The reason we are here today, is about bringing closure for the victims," Desarno said at a press conference. "There are now multiple women that have been attacked, assaulted and raped," said in the statement.

"We stand here on behalf of them in the hope that a recollection, a memory jogged, a subsequent text or phone call with that information with result in the closure that these victims deserve."

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Tuesday
Jun192018

Surveillance video shows burglar punched priest who confronted him after he allegedly broke into church

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- Chicago police released surveillance video this week showing a young thug punching a priest in the face after the clergyman confronted the young man about alleged breaking into his church. when he was trying to find out what the burglar did in his church.

Father Matthew Compton was working on the second floor of the rectory of Thomas More Church on Chicago's south side last Friday when he heard unusual noises.

Compton initially thought it was someone with some kind of medical problem in the hallway at around 11:30 PM.

Compton looked into the hallway and saw a man in a black hoodie whom he did not recognize.

“I realized immediately it’s not the pastor," Compton told ABC News. "It’s a different person,” he said.

Compton, 41, ran after the individual, whom he described as in his late 20s.

“Who are you, what are you doing here?” he asked.

The alleged burglar punched the priest on the side of his head and scratched his face before fleeing towards a back door.

“He was shocked that I was there,” Compton said.

Compton ran after the man and confronted him again at the back door.

The priest asked the man again, “Why are you here?”

He said the man responded, "I am here to pray."

"No you are not,” the priest recalled responding to the young burglar.

The offender then forced the door open and fled into an alley.

Compton then locked the back door and sought to locate his pastor - the only other person in the rectory at that time of night.

The two clergyman quickly realized that items including a printer, a laptop computer and Compton's wallet was missing.

“I wanted to know what was happening, I wanted to know who he was," Compton said. "I knew he did not belong [in] the building, but I was trying to sort out what exactly was taking place,” he said.

“I wasn’t thinking through what the best cause of action was,” he said. “I probably should have gone back to my office and called the police right away.”

The confrontation lasted about two and half minutes. Police arrived about 10 to 15 minutes after the incident was reported. The church has been been burglarized and vandalized at least four times, Compton said.

He said that the alleged burglar and another person apparently entered the building through a hole they made by dislodging an air conditioner.

“The presence [of the alleged thief] is unsettling," Compton said. "And the sense of not respecting my rights, my property, my residence, to my knowledge, I’ve never done anything to him,” he said.

Though annoyed and alarmed, Compton, who has been a priest for 14 years, said he hopes the young man redeems himself.

“At the same time, coming from the Catholic faith, I forgive him. I want to forgive him, and my hope is that he changes,” he said.

Compton said that he and his pastor now lock all the doors, turn on an alarm system and retreat to their rooms early.

“We go to the room earlier in the evening, so we can have all the alarms activated - not just the door, but all the alarms in the building activated,” he said.

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Tuesday
Jun192018

Charleston lawmakers to vote on resolution apologizing for city's slavery past

iStock/Thinkstock(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- One southern city wants to apologize for its past.

City officials in Charleston, South Carolina, will vote on a resolution Tuesday that expresses regret for the centuries of human slavery that was administered and regulated by its former lawmakers.

"This is the modern city council which feels the need to make an apology for the institution of slavery in the city of Charleston," Charleston councilman William Dudley Gregorie, who helped author and shepherd the resolution, told ABC News.

The three-page resolution will be voted on by the council's 12 members. It needs a majority of seven votes to pass.

The language in the resolution explicitly takes responsibility for the "dehumanizing atrocities" that was condoned for centuries.

The resolution goes on to detail how the economic success of colonial and antebellum Charleston (formerly Charles Town) "was slave labor" and it prospered "due to the expertise, ingenuity and hard labor of enslaved Africans who were forced to endure inhumane working conditions that produced wealth for many, but which was denied to them."

The document also admits to how the institution of slavery "sought to suppress, if not destroy, the cultural and social values of Africans by stripping Africans of their ancestral names and customs, humiliating and brutalizing them through sexual exploitation, and selling African relatives apart from one another without regard to the connection of the family."

In the name of "basic decency," the resolution calls for the city to make a formal "acknowledgment and apology for its role in regulating, supporting and fostering the institution of slavery in the city and the past wrongs inflicted on African Americans here in Charleston and elsewhere."

The document also lauds the "significant contributions" made to Charleston's community "by talented and skilled African Americans that are reflected in the agriculture, architecture, artisanship, arts and cuisine of this City."

"Certainly, the city fathers of Charleston have much to apologize for over the course of history for the treatment of African Americans," David Shields, a University of South Carolina professor, told ABC News.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston pledged his support for the resolution.

“Jesus loved, accepted and embraced all people. Their race, gender or nationality never mattered to Him. Our African American brothers and sisters have suffered greatly because of slavery and Jim Crow laws. This apology is an important step in healing wounds that are still evident, even today," he said in a statement.

Gregorie, who is also a trustee at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, said the resolution is a long time coming and a testament to the power of collaboration.

He did "extensive research to reach a draft" that was shared with his fellow council members.

Gregorie said he can't shake the massacre at a Charleston church three years ago that killed nine worshippers.

"We're trying to turn our pain into something positive," he stressed. "We recognize that people apologize by the way they live and they've given individually; it's not as if people haven't been apologizing through action."

"This is the institution doing its part," he added.

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Tuesday
Jun192018

National Park Service researchers find litter of mountain lion kittens near Los Angeles

National Park Service(SANTA MONICA, Calif.) -- National Park Service researchers in California discovered that a mountain lion they've been tracking since January has given birth to a little of four kittens.

The kittens -- who are all female -- were found recently in Simi Hills, a small habitat wedged between the Santa Monica and Santa Susana mountain ranges, the Park Service said in a press release Tuesday.

Researchers stumbled across the litter on June 11 when they visited the mother's den while she was away. It is the first kitten den researchers have documented in Simi Hills, which is located near Los Angeles between the 101 and 118 freeways, according to the NPS. Scientists had suspected that the mother had given birth after noticing activity on her GPS collar that indicated she was denning.

National Park Service"We are very interested to learn about how they will navigate the fragmented landscape and whether they will remain in the Simi Hills or eventually cross one or more freeways to the north or south," said Jeff Sikich, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The nearly 5-week-old kittens have blue eyes and spots and weigh between four and five pounds, according to the NPS. Biologists have taken tissue samples, conducted a general health check and marked the kittens with ear tags.

It was challenging for researchers to find the den, even with GPS information, because mountain lion mothers tend to choose difficult-to-find locations, the park service said. This is the 15th litter of kittens marked by NPS researchers at a den site.

National Park ServiceThe National Park Service and its partners have been working to preserve and increase the wildlife between the Santa Monica mountains and other natural areas to the north, the organization said in the press release. It has been studying mountain lions in the area since 2002 to determine how they survive in an urbanized environment.

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Tuesday
Jun192018

US foster parents of separated immigrant children 'don't know how much worse it could be'

ABC News(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- When the 9-year-old Guatemalan boy arrived at a Michigan foster care home, he was so afraid he couldn't eat.

Over time, the boy confided to his foster parents, Karl and Jen, that he and his father had escaped violence and poverty in their homeland only to be greeted with more hardship when they arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, where he watched his dad being taken from him in handcuffs.

"When he came to us, he was extraordinarily fearful," Jen, who asked ABC News not to use her and her husband's last name, said. "He came in all-black clothes, we learned, because he traveled at night with his dad and they didn't want to be seen."

When she and her husband picked him up in October at the Grand Rapids, Michigan, airport where he arrived with a U.S. government escort, the child was terrified, Jen said.

"He was afraid to eat, he was afraid to look,” she added. His clothes were soiled, he wouldn't use the bathroom.”

But over the past eight months, the boy, now 10, opened up, telling them the story of his and his father's treacherous journey to what they thought would be the land of promise.

It's a story the couple says is similar to that of other children they have taken in more recently, children separated from their parents under the Trump administrations "zero-tolerance" policy for dealing with undocumented immigrants illegally crossing the southern border.

The couple -- who have three biological children, ages 9 through 14 -- are also caring for an 8-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, both from Honduras.

"You know, there is the side that this is an illegal action," Karl told ABC News of the families caught sneaking across the border. "I don't think that we [can] look past that, but I think we also see there's a need. Why are people doing this? It's usually because of extreme poverty and lack of opportunity or gang violence. Violence where if you don't join the gang, then, 'We're going to kill somebody in your family.'"

Karl and Jen said they've learned the Guatemalan boy's father has already been deported to Guatemala. The child is finally headed back to Guatemala Wednesday to be reunited with his family, they added.

"We kept telling him, 'You're safe. You can fall asleep,' and this is after he'd been with us for a while," Jen said.

Initially, she said, they communicated with the boy by using matchbox cars to indicate how he and his father traveled.

"We know he saw [his father] go away in handcuffs," Jen said. "We know he traveled in the back of a truck at night and he got sick and threw up. We know that he was in a bus and it appears that he may have been in a luggage compartment of a bus.

“We know he flew on a plane to Grand Rapids, and he has high hopes and dreams of being a pilot someday. He wants the opportunity of America, but he wants his family."

Jen said the 8-year-old girl from Honduras living with them came into the country with her mother seeking asylum. But now she and Karl and the agency that placed the girl with them haven't been able to find out where the mother is being held.

The 5-year-old boy also traveled from Honduras with his father, Jen said.

All the children have shared stories of their time being held in detention facilities before being placed in foster care, she added.

"I do get to hear a little bit about chain-link fences. They talk about mats on the floor, not a lot of food, and crying and fear," Jen said.

She and Karl said their preconceived perceptions of undocumented immigrants has evolved as they have cared for the children. They've come to believe the government should change its policy to keep families together.

"In my eyes, they're seeking safety and opportunities. They're not committing a crime," Jen said. "If they're going to be detained, let them be detained together. Why not?

“I feel there is some form of punishment going on here and I can't make sense of it. As a foster parent, I can't make sense of why we have these kids for so long."

Dona Abbott, director of refugee services for Bethany Christian Services in Michigan, said that since April, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced strict enforcement of the administration's "zero-tolerance" policy, the number of undocumented children her agency places in foster care has skyrocketed.

"We underestimate the danger" of separating children from their parents, Abbott told ABC News. "Many kids are having nightmares, can't eat, can't sleep ... don't know where their parents are. The last image they have of their parents is shock and fear ... the memory never goes away.

"We are being asked to care for more and more children ... I don't know how much worse it could be."

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Tuesday
Jun192018

Court suspends Arkansas law, giving women 2-week period to have medical abortions

Google Maps(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- Women seeking medical abortions in Arkansas will have two weeks to access them after a court temporarily suspended a state-wide ban.

Medical abortions -- those that use pills rather than surgery to end a pregnancy -- were banned in Arkansas after the Supreme Court declined to review a lower court's decision in late May.

That meant that of the state's three abortion clinics, only one has been able to continue providing abortions because it performs surgical abortions.

On Monday evening, a federal district court issued a temporary restraining order, allowing clinics to offer medical abortions for two weeks before the ban goes back into effect.

The 100-page decision stated that "the Court finds that the threat of irreparable harm to [Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma] and Dr. [Stephanie] Ho, and the public interest, outweighs the immediate interests and potential injuries to the state," citing the doctor at one of the Planned Parenthood clinics whose patients have been impacted. Ho is a medical abortion provider at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fayetteville.

"As a physician, I appreciate that the court has taken a stand to protect the rights of my patients and block this unnecessary, targeted law," Ho told ABC News in a statement.

"The patients I see don’t take their rights for granted — even for a minute. This case has real impacts for real women. We won’t have to turn away patients from our health centers this week because of the court’s intervention — and I couldn’t be more proud to provide my patients with a full range of high-quality sexual and reproductive care," she added.

The temporary restraining order expires on July 2 and does not reverse the ban.

A spokesperson from Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which oversees Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, told ABC News that nurse practitioners and abortion providers are canceling their planned vacations to make sure that they are available during the 14-day period.

Brandon Hill, the president of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, released a statement saying the "ruling is a victory for the women of Arkansas."

"For more than two weeks, our patients had to live with uncertainty, enduring the cancellation of appointments and a lack of options. The court’s decision offers relief to our patients, at least for now. We will continue to do everything we can to protect our patients’ right to safe, legal abortion," he said.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement saying she was "disappointed" in the decision.

"Judge Baker’s ruling allows Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Clinic to administer medication abortions without the necessary safety net available for women who experience emergencies and complications," Rutledge said. "Last year, the 8th Circuit unanimously ruled that Judge Baker’s original attempt to block this law was incorrect. This order is completely inconsistent with the 8th Circuit’s decision and should not stand."

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Tuesday
Jun192018

Richmond school named after confederate general will be changed to Barack Obama Elementary

Google, FILE(RICHMOND, Va.) -- A predominantly African-American elementary school in Richmond, Virginia, is dropping its confederate general name and will soon be known as Barack Obama Elementary.

A predominantly African-American elementary school in Richmond, Virginia, is dropping its confederate general name and will soon be known as Barack Obama Elementary.

The Richmond Public School Board voted 6-1 Monday to change the name of J.E.B Stuart Elementary School, school district spokeswoman Kenita Bowers told ABC News.

But the planning for ditching the school's name goes back nearly a year to last summer's rally over a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, she said. The rally turned deadly and sparked a renewed push to remove Confederate symbols across the nation, form New Orleans to Maryland to New York.

Stuart was a prominent cavalry commander and major general with the Confederate Army.

In Richmond, J.E.B Stuart Elementary had opened its doors in 1922 with its confederate general name. But now, 91.7 percent of the elementary school's students are African-American.

After Charlottesville, Bowers said, "the community called into question whether this needs to be changed" so the school is "named for someone positive who probably represents the community in a more all-inclusive way."

Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras agreed that a change should be made and the school board moved forward with the process, Bowers said. Many names were considered and eventually the list was narrowed to three: Wishtree (a name chosen by the young students), Northside and Barack Obama, she said.

The superintendent selected Obama and took that name to the school board for a vote, Bowers said.

"He just felt very strongly about utilizing this opportunity to rename the school for a very prominent African-American who has made history and also resonates with the students," she said.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney approved of the decision, tweeting, "Thank you Richmond City School Board for re-naming JEB Stuart Elementary, Barack Obama Elementary. A leader we can be proud of!"

There is no set date for when the name change will go into effect but, Bowers said, it could be as early as the next school year.

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