Robert E. Lee High School

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Robert E. Lee High School is a high school at 1400 Jackson-Keller Road in San Antonio, Texas, named for the Confederate American Civil War General Robert E. Lee. An entity of the North East Independent School District, Lee opened in 1958. In the 2009-2010 school year, it had an enrollment of 2,239. On August 29, 2017, school district trustees voted unanimously to drop General Lee's name from the school. No replacement name was immediately advanced, nor is funding for the name change readily available.[1]

On October 9, 2017, the trustees voted 5-2 to use the name Legacy of Educational Excellence High School, or L.E.E HS, beginning with the 2018-2019 school year. The similarity in the new name reflects the board's attempt to keep down costs associated with the renaming.[2] The trustees will have to sandblast the name "Robert E." or the full "Robert E. Lee High School" inscribed on the front of the building. Presumably many will continue to call the institution "Lee High School."

Lee is the home of three magnet schools, the North East School of the Arts, the International School of the Americas, and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, Academy.

The Class of 1973 erected a poster placed at the foot of the General Lee statue at the main entrance to the school. The inscription reads: "The education of a man is never completed until he dies."[3] In 1991, Lee High dropped the use of the Confederate flag as its symbol.[4]

In 2015, the NEISD trustees voted 5–2 to keep the name "Robert E. Lee" after liberals raised objections to honoring the late Virginia general, whose wife was a great-granddaughter of Martha Washington. In August 2017, Glanno Gomez, a 19-year-old from San Antonio, launched another online petition to rename Lee High School in the aftermath of the 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, which the national media largely attributed to white supremacists. At the same time as the Charlottesville clash on August 12 between leftist and rightist factions, demonstrators gathered without violence at Travis Park in downtown San Antonio to seek the removal of the monument of an unnamed soldier dedicated to "Our Confederate Dead."[3] At 2 a.m. on September 1, 2017, the city removed the statue in Travis Park, just hours after the city council authorized the action on a 9-1 vote.

On August 29, 2017, district trustees reversed their 2015 decision. Instead all seven trustees voted in special session hastily called without public input to drop the name.[1][5] Sandi Wolff, who voted with the majority against the name change in 2015, said that the political climate had shifted since the previous vote. In a statement, the school district said that in light of recent events, "The board felt it was necessary to review the issue again."[6]

The University of Texas, the state's flagship institution in the capital city of Austin, meanwhile removed without notice during the night several Confederate statues on campus. The Lee High School name also came under renewed fire. Kenny Strawn, president of the Lee High School Young Democrats club, said that a change in names is a priority for his group. Trustee Wolff said that the issue has opened the door for a "positive conversation" among Lee students.[6]

Marie Anglin, a columnist for the San Antonio Express-News who attended Lee High School in the middle 1980s, said that she did not "remember such across-the-board interest in [Robert E.] Lee's contributions when I was in school." Anglin added, "It's clear that it's time to change the name. Aggrandizing a Confederate leader who's long gone and a historical narrative that has little to do with San Antonio isn't worth the division it is causing."[4] Actually, Lee has a Texas connection: his first command of a fort for the United States Second Cavalry was from 1856 to 1857 at Camp Cooper in Throckmorton County, three hundred miles north of San Antonio.[7] The large Robert E. Lee Hotel is located in downtown San Antonio and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for Bexar County.

In late September, the district trustees called for public input in selecting a new name for the school but suggested that the name should not be that of a person.[8]

The trustees who voted to scrap General Lee from the school name are Letti Bresnahan (president) from District 6, Shannon Grona (vice president) from District 5, Sandy Hughey (secretary) from District 1, Brigitte Perkins from District 7, Jim Wheat from District 4, Edd White from District 2, and Sandi Wolff from District 3. Wolff is married to Bexar County Commissioner Kevin Wolff and the daughter-in-law of County Judge Nelson Wolff, a former mayor of San Antonio. All trustees serve four-year terms on a staggered basis.[9]

In his blog "The Daily Dump", Sean Rima of KTSA radio in San Antonio spoke out against the renaming of the school. He called the decision a "Non-decision."[10]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Trey Ware Show, KTSA Radio, San Antonio, Texas, August 30, 2017.
  2. Texas high school named for Robert E. Lee renamed to L.E.E. High School. Wcyb.com. Retrieved on October 10, 2017.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lauren Caruba, "History and controversy collide: Rival petitions over Lee High School name are launched," San Antonio Express-News, August 19, 2017, pp. A3, A4.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Maria Anglin, San Antonio Express-News, August 20, 2017, p. F3.
  5. Hope, Merrill (August 31, 2017). Texas School Sheds ‘Robert E. Lee’ for ‘Student Safety’. Breitbart News. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lauren Caruba, "NEISD to re-examine Lee's name: No change for high school two years ago," San Antonio Express-News, August 25, 2017, pp. A3, A5.
  7. Handbook of Texas Online, Charles G. Davis, "Camp Cooper," accessed August 27, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbc09. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 5, 2011. Published by the Texas State Historical Association
  8. The Trey Ware Show, September 19, 2017.
  9. North East Independent School District, Texas. Ballotpedia. Retrieved on October 19, 2017.
  10. Renaming Lee High School to L.E.E. High School Is a Non-Decision. KTSA.com. Retrieved on October 20, 2017.