Eradicating the name of Robert E. Lee High School was publically discussed at school district board meeting in San Antonio, Texas Monday evening with no action taken.
The North East Independent School District meeting had 36 people signed up to speak about the name change, with the majority adamantly in favor of keeping the name. But student, Kayla Wilson, who has been organizing a campaign to change the name was also present. Wilson has worked hard throughout the summer gathering supporters for the name change. During the meeting at the Richard A. Middleton Education Center, she read a letter from former mayor Julian Castro regarding his support for Wilson’s cause.
Wilson credited Castro, now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for the Obama Administration, for the inspiration to pursue the name change though the Internet and social media in June.
Alumni have been especially concerned about changing the name of their alma mater to the point that “#LetLeeBe” bumper stickers were made and a surge of people in the community have been seen wearing Robert E. Lee pictured T-Shirts.
Tim Adams, class of 1979, attended the meeting and is particularly sentimental about keeping the school’s name intact.
“We’ve been Robert E. Lee for 57 years with thousands of students graduating here with pride and honors,” Wanda Frisco stated. “We proved in 1991, when we rid the Confederate flag from our football jerseys and other places, that we all respect one another and all heritages.”
“This community and most of the students and parents fully understand that it is probably a good thing to remove the Confederate battle flag from our schools and government buildings,” nodded Pete Salinas. “Out of respect for everyone we already removed it from here in 1991, but we are not talking about that here and now. We already took care of it. This is about our heritage and school pride and love of our community and all the people here. It feels like hatred to want to remove it from our school.”
“We don’t want our tax money to go to removing our heritage and something we are proud of,” Salinas added. “We want it to go to educating our children. That’s all. Don’t waste our tax money.”
“We’ve made significant contributions to academics, athletics and several other areas,” said Adams. “And the idea of changing the school name at this point seems ridiculous in my mind.”
“There’s a heritage there. To take that name away is not right,” class of 1965 alumnus Sharon Neumann said. “It’s not fair to the memory of General Lee because that’s labeling him something he was not.”
NEISD leaders have not decided to make any decisions about the issue at this time, but some observers say the best thing to come out of this debate is that more students have learned about the Civil War and General Lee.
Critics of former mayor Castro point out that he has been quick to support the changing of names around San Antonio. A few years ago resident tax dollars totaling over $150,000 were used to change the historic Durango Blvd in downtown to Cesar Chavez.
“Why doesn’t Castro change the name of his own high school, Thomas Jefferson,” asked Frisco? “Jefferson owned well over a hundred slaves and at least Lee was on record for opposing slavery.”
Castro grew up under the influence of his political activist mother, Rosie Castro, who has gone on record in a New York Times article stating she hates everything about the Alamo. Colonel William B. Travis, commander of the Alamo was a slave owner.
“What’s next on the Castro censure list,” Frisco continued? “Do we use our taxes dollars now to change the name of Travis Park, Travis Street, and the buildings and businesses named after the Alamo hero?”
“If it wasn’t for Colonel Travis, there would be no Texas,” Frisco added. “Hell, next he will go after Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. Who knows? We might as well go take a look at all of our street names, building names, school names and just do away with our history with his politically correct craziness. John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton were womanizers so what should we do about their names on public places?”
“Generations of families have graduated from Lee High School,” district spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said in a statement in June. “It has a rich tradition and a long history in the community. Lee has a large, active alumni association and we have heard from hundreds of them about their unwavering support of keeping the name. NEISD is not considering changing the name of Lee High School.”
Chancellor said the District was surprised to see Castro’s social-media post in June, but afterwards they “have not heard from any community members, parents, students, anyone at all, asking for a name change. In fact, since news of the comment came out, I’ve actually heard from numerous alums of Lee High School who are adamantly opposed to changing the name.”
After Wilson went on online to initiate a petition on the Change.org site for the name change, she was able to gather about 10,000 signatures from around the globe. To counter act, Benjamin White began a petition later, on July 2, on GoPetition.com but closed it on August 9th. His petition reached 6,145 signatures.
On one website, Reddit, students upset with Castro’s proposal ridiculed the idea of a name change with their cynical responses such as renaming the school “Bruce Lee High School.” Others posted:
“No, Sara Lee, because who doesn’t like Sara Lee?”
“Or maybe Harper Lee, since she’s taking fire now for her book.”
“I’m casting my vote for the Stan Lee High Avengers!”
“I’d vote for Lee Majors, because if you were in middle school in the 70s, he was the man.”
“Robert E. Lee was more than a man that supported the South, he was a great leader and smart man,” noted White. “I feel that changing the name of our school would be alienating to southern Americans and would take away from the pride that past years’ alumni have for the school.”
“We often forget that the Confederacy was doing an act of treason, an act of betrayal,” Wilson stated in her petition.
“Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia and (from 1865) the general-in-chief of Confederate forces, neither owned slaves nor inherited any, thus it is not correct to assert that he “freed his slaves” (in 1862 or at any other time),” countered Dennis Humphrey online.