NEISD Board Will Decide Tuesday Whether to Rename Robert E. Lee High School

Robert E. Lee High School - Northeast Independent School District
Northeast Independent School District
Robert E. Lee High School
San Antonio's North East Independent School District board is holding a special meeting Tuesday evening to reconsider changing the name of Robert E. Lee High School.

“Given the recent events in our country and with feedback from our community, the board felt it was necessary to review the issue again,” the district said in a statement, announcing the 5:30 p.m. meeting.

The meeting was scheduled in response to a quickly-circling petition to rename the school, penned by a San Antonio teen after the violent pro-Confederate rally in Charlottesville August 12.

"We must make a statement against the White Supremacy movement," writes 19-year-old Gianno Gomez in the online petition. "Too many people have fought and died for civil rights. Having the name of a Confederate general on a place of learning is shameful."

This isn't the first time a petition like this encouraged the NEISD board to consider a name change. In 2015, Robert E. Lee student Kayla Wilson pushed for an urgent renaming of her school after Dylann Roof killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, in a rampage openly driven by racist beliefs. Her petition inspired a NEISD board discussion and decision on changing the name — ending in a 5-2 vote against the idea.

Last week, Wilson, who has since graduated, reopened that petition to put steam behind the reignited movement. "It is two years later our fight continues," she wrote. "I have reopened this petition to ask all of you, who took time out to support my petition, to help the brave students."

Despite carrying a name seeped in Civil War-era pride, the north side high school opened in 1958, during the rise of the civil rights movement — and just four years after the Supreme Court overruled segregation in public schools. In recent years, school officials have often called it "Lee" High School, in what seems to be an attempt to distance the school from the leader synonymous with racist values.

San Antonio's high school is only one of nearly a dozen schools named after the infamous Confederate leader in Texas. Some, like Dallas' Robert E. Lee Elementary School, and Tyler's Robert E. Lee High School have recently reignited similar movements to rename their tainted facilities.

The NEISD discussion comes two days before the San Antonio City Council is expected to vote on the removal of Travis Park's Confederate monument, a plan that drew hundreds to downtown San Antonio August 12 to protest its removal — and its existence. The group that supports the statue's removal, called SATX4, has also put its muscle behind the high school petition.

"The Confederacy cannot and should not be whitewashed," wrote the group in a press statement. "The idea that Robert E. Lee is part of a history that cannot be erased must be defeated. This stops today."
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