Robert E. Lee Elementary becomes Lee Elementary

Published: Jan. 23, 2018 at 2:41 AM CST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2018 at 12:03 PM CST
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AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - One local elementary school will be altering, but not changing, its controversial name.

Robert E. Lee Elementary School will now be called Lee Elementary.

The school board made the decision 4 to 3 after a packed house of opinions.

Members of the community spoke out passionately, with the majority of the room lobbying for a complete name change.

"It told black citizens that like much of the rest of the city at that time, this is for white people," said one Amarillo teacher who wanted a complete name change. "It is important now to reverse historical racist and unethical decisions that have hurt many in our community, especially people of color."

Those who supported the change also expressed that the name hampered encouragement of diversity in the district and city as a whole.

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Others hoped to keep Robert E. Lee as the name.

"If we start going down this road, what's going to be next?" said one opposing Amarillo citizen. "Somebody, later on, months or years later are going to decide they're upset about Texas' revolution."

Others on the opposition said that Lee's legacy wasn't about slavery, but about love for his family and loyalty to his countrymen.

Board member James Allen, who attended the school years ago proposed renaming it to Park Hills. This would fit with the AISD current policy of naming schools for the neighborhood they are in.

"The symbolism of Robert E. Lee taking up arms to keep a system of slavery in place is not a symbol that should adorn a public school with the primary purpose of educating all students," said Allen.

However, the board voted four to three to alter the name to Lee Elementary, leaving many disheartened. Those who voted against shortening the name were board members James Allen, John Betancourt and John Ben Blanchard.

"To be on the side of town that it's on and have people against it and for our school board to say that's what they want to go with, I think that shows we still have quite a ways to go," said Bowden Jones, Jr., an Amarillo resident.

"People can't be afraid of change," said community leader Julian Reese. "There are two people who work at Robert E. Lee who look like me. Those two people said they didn't want that name because they live in that neighborhood they grew up in, and they know what that name means."

The naming will go into effect beginning the 2018-2019 school year.

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