Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro called on the North East Independent School District to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School.
The former San Antonio mayor stated the district should form a committee to identify individuals that are "more appropriate" to honor in a post published to his personal Facebook page on Tuesday.
Castro made the request on the heels of a report that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — and staunch conservative — said a statue Confederate President Jefferson Davis should be removed from the Kentucky state capitol.
Confederate symbols such as the Confederate flag have been the source or nationwide controversy in the week following the alleged murder of nine black church-goers in Charleston, South Carolina, by Dylan Roof. Pictures of the 21-year-old white supremacist draped in the Confederate flag have come to prominence in the days following the mass shooting. As a result, political leaders are calling for the removal of Confederate symbols on public property, and businesses such as Walmart are pulling Stars and Bars merchandise from their shelves. (Locally owned Dixie Flag Company announced it will longer sell flag
earlier this week.)
The Confederate backlash has extended beyond the flag in recent days. The University of Texas at Austin announced this week that a 12-member task force will be convened to consider the removal of a Jefferson Davis statue from the campus' South Lawn. The controversial statue was one of several at UT-Austin that were spray-painted by protesters
with the phrase "Black Lives Matter" on Tuesday.
Now Castro is calling on a new name for Lee High School, which opened in 1958.
Aubrey Chancellor, a spokeswoman for NEISD, stood behind the school's name, according to KENS5
"Regardless of whether General Lee was on the wrong side of the war, he as an individual was someone to be respected ... To tell you the truth, that's a great man in history."
Chancellor added that the district has thus far received no backlash regarding Lee High School, but indicated that community members can voice their concern by contacting the school's principal, Nicole Franco
, or attending the district's next board meeting on July. The exact date of that meeting is currently unavailable on NEISD's website
Some conservatives argue that Confederate symbols celebrate Southern heritage and are not symbols of bigotry and the United State's legacy of institutional slavery. Meanwhile, civil rights activists believe that while the removal of Confederate symbols on public property is important, it's distracting from a larger conversation about racism in America
But as KENS5 reports, there is precedent for changing the name of a school that honors a Confederate leader. In 1992, the San Antonio Independent School District changed the name of Jefferson Davis Middle School to Stonewall Jackson Davis Middle School. The junior high is located off East Houston Street on the city's predominately black East Side. The latter Davis was a prominent black leader in San Antonio
Whether the community will heed Castro's call to change the name of Lee High School remains to be seen. But the backlash against Confederate symbols continues to grow rather than wane.