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Growing Call to Rename Schools Named After Confederate Leaders in Aftermath of Charlottesville

Following last week’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, people in Nashville, Lexington, and other cities urged government officials to remove Confederate monuments that represent one of our country’s most troubling legacies. The groundswell for removing these Confederate monuments also raises the issue of schools named after officers of the Confederate army.

As of 2015, there were 19 public and charter schools named after the general of the Confederate Army, Robert E. Lee. And that’s not even scratching the surface of schools named after other Confederate soldiers like Stonewall Jackson. In total, 188 schools across the United States are named after Confederate leaders, and many school districts are feeling the pressure to change those names in the aftermath of the Charlottesville violence. After all, the argument can be made that it's somewhat hypocritical to foster a school climate of tolerance and diversity when the name of the man on the building didn't share those beliefs.

Dallas Independent School District Board President Dan Micciche said he would like to see the four elementary campuses named after men who sided with the Confederacy undergo a name change. Writing in a Facebook post, Micciche said, "There is no place for the violence and hatred we saw on display this weekend," adding "I believe the board will strongly support the renaming of schools that honor Confederate generals under either the current process or an expedited process."

Similar views rippled through Oklahoma as well with school board members at a meeting last week saying they were in favor of renaming the schools currently named after Confederate officers Stand Watie, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and Joseph Wheeler. "Those four historical figures certainly don't represent any of the values that we have in our district today, and I understand 100 percent the desire to change them," School Board Chair Paula Lewis told NewsOK.

While opponents to the renaming of these schools may evoke the old “heritage not hate” argument, for Oklahoma school board members the concern is one of money, not heritage. It would cost an estimated $50,000-$75,000 per school to change the names. "As much as I don't want money to be the reason we keep the names of those schools what they are, I also don't want to take $200,000 away from students and their education," said Lewis.

With Charlottesville barely a week in the past and the Charleston church shooting still in the rearview mirror, communities around the country owe it to themselves to take a critical look at the legacy their schools honor and the legacy they want them to represent in the future.

 

Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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