Four Houston, Texas school campuses will be renamed following a 5-4 vote by the Houston school Board.
The schools were named for Confederate loyalists, and the possibility of renaming four other schools for the same reason has been postponed, reports Ericka Mellon for the Houston Chronicle.
School board trustees agreed to get the name-changing process started at Henry Grady, Richard Dowling, and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson middle schools as well as Robert E. Lee High School. Each school will appoint a committee consisting of a teacher, a student, a parent, and an alumnus who will be responsible for coming up with new names for the schools.
Trustees who represent the four remaining schools, Lanier and Johnston middle schools and Davis and Reagan high schools, have asked that these schools be excluded, but the decision was postponed.
A number of students and parents from Lanier donned the school’s purple spirit color to plead with the board to allow the school to keep its current name. Their argument was that Sidney Lanier was a Confederate soldier, but was better known as a poet. The group added that they had not been given enough time to discuss the issue.
“This is clearly a very important question, and it brings out a lot of emotion on both sides of the issue,” Adriane Arnold, president of the Lanier parent group, told the board. “It is something our kids will be discussing at Lanier moving forward.”
The president of the NAACP of Houston, James Douglas, urged the trustees to change the names of the schools, explaining that he cannot honor those who were “willing to destroy this country in order to treat [his] forefathers as inhuman.”
Board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones was ready to rename the schools soon after the June 17 murder of nine black church members by an alleged white supremacist in Charleston, S.C. Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) successfully campaigned in 2014 for name changes to do away with school mascots that were offensive to Native Americans.
The Associated Press reports that Confederate symbols are facing review across the country because of concerns about racism. But one person, Howard Moon, a Reagan High School 1951 graduate, is tired of political correctness.
Moon said he is a member of the school’s alumni association which donates considerable money in scholarships to Reagan. The graduate worries that the name change may hinder future contributions.
Now, representatives of the four schools that had the name change decision postponed can go back to their communities and begin discussions about the issue. The results of those meetings will then be brought back to the board.
Josh Chapin of KHOU-TV News said there are parents who think this debate should take a back seat to the more important issue of improving education in general.
“I think if we’re going to rewrite wrongs I think that we need to change the status of how we’re educating our children in every school and I think this would be less of an issue,” said Pretta Vandible-Stallworth.
Houston Independent School District reports that the process is at such an early stage it is hard to tell how much the name-changing process will cost. The new name recommendations will be presented to the board in May.