Lee High School in the North East (Texas) district will keep its name...sort of...but it will no longer be named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The school board for the San Antonio area district has voted 5 to 2 to rename the school LEE High School—an acronym for Legacy of Educational Excellence.
The San Antonio Express News reports that the name change will become effective next school year.
The school opened in 1958 with the Robert E. Lee name.
Board members decided this summer to rename the school to avoid the distraction of an ongoing controversy. Violent white supremacist protests in Virginia had rekindled the debate about memorializing the Confederacy, including Lee, its most prominent military leader.
Edd White, a board member who voted two years ago to rename the school when the board first grappled with the issue, says keeping Robert E. Lee associated with the school in any form defeated the idea of changing the school’s culture.
“I just think we’re trying to put lipstick on a pig if you’re gonna still have the acronym LEE,” he said.
The board selected the new name out of a pared down list of 542 suggestions. Board members had asked that the new name reflect an idea, rather than an individual.
Over the years, White says, the district had attempted to make Lee a more “palatable” figure by stripping away the corresponding Civil War symbolism from its athletic teams and spirit groups — the Confederate battle flag on uniforms, and, more recently, the band’s renditions of “Dixie” during football games.
“We’ve tried to clean it up,” he said. “And it didn’t work. And it may not work this time.”