Robert E. Lee name change

The Austin School Board is looking into changing the name of a local elementary school, after hundreds of parents said they take offense to the school's namesake, a Confederate Army general.

Robert E. Lee Elementary is the first of a few schools which the school board will consider renaming Monday night.
The school's Campus Advisory Committee voted unanimously to have the board consider changing the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary.

About 500 people have signed a petition to rename the elementary school, while 450 have signed a petition to leave the name alone.

Parents of children who attended Robert E. Lee Elementary have mixed emotions about renaming the school 77 years after it was founded.

“It would be most appropriate to take the symbols that we honor people by and change them, especially when they're something that was promoted at a time when segregation was very important,” Robert Crumb, whose children attended the elementary school, said.

“Everybody wants the elementary school to be welcoming to everybody, so from that perspective I kind of see it, but then I worry about an excess of political correctness and trying to change our history,” said Jim Reed whose children also attended school at Robert E. Lee Elementary.

Robert E. Lee is most well known as a confederate general during the Civil War, but his history runs far deeper than that.

“People forget that he was a Union officer initially. He was stationed in Texas, he had a history in Texas before the Civil War, he was a Civil War commander, he was an educator, after that he did all sorts of things, said Reed

After last summer's shooting at a historic black church in South Carolina by a white man who wrote a racist manifesto,  the attitude of honoring Confederate symbols and leaders changed nationwide.

“Are they going to worry about other names and everybody's name from Albertson E Johnston, Fort Hood, General Hood was a great general in the confederacy, so where's it going to stop?” Reed said.

“I think that when we look at symbols and places of honor, there has been a recent movement to look at those critically and decide and make decisions about whether that should change,” said Crumb

The University of Texas removed a statue of confederate President Jefferson Davis last year after students protested the monument honored a leader who fought in favor of slavery.
Now it's Austin ISD's turn to look into the issue and decide whether a name change would improve race relations. Robert E. Lee is the first school on the chopping block.

“I think that it represents something that is offensive to some people. It is a representation of something. It is honoring Robert E Lee, which is a part of the history of the south, but because that also was a mark of oppression and slavery that today it's time to change,” Crumb said.

“Lee Elementary would be fine. They could easily change the sign to Lee Elementary,” said Reed

The other schools in Austin ISD that will be considered include Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston campus, named for confederate General Albert Johnston. Sidney Lanier High School, named for a southern poet who fought for the Confederacy. And John Reagan High School, named for a Confederate postmaster general.

Also controversial is the mascot at William Travis High School, which signifies Confederate Imagery.
 

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