Tyler ISD Board of Trustees may address controversy over name of Robert E. Lee High School on Monday

Published on Friday, 15 September 2017 18:28 - Written by

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CORY MCCOY, comccoy@tylerpaper.com

The Tyler Independent School District Board of Trustees may address the controversy over the name of Robert E. Lee High School.


The September board meeting agenda shows the board will discuss matters related to changing facility names on Monday. It is a discussion only item.


The agenda item is listed as “Policy CW (Local) – Naming, Renaming or Modifying the name of any school building or other facility in the district.”


“Obviously the issue of the naming of schools is one that our community cares deeply about,” Board President Fritz Hager said. “I put this item (on) the agenda so the board could discuss it in a public open forum, which is the appropriate place.”


Last month hundreds of residents attended the board meeting to give their thoughts on whether or not the district should rename Robert E. Lee High School as the district prepares to fully renovate the school.


The push to change the name of the high school is a grassroots movement, with groups in the community coming together on both sides of the issue.


“Change the name of Robert E. Lee,” the Rev. M.K. Mast boomed into the microphone multiple times during his two-minute allotted time at the August meeting. “It is time. How long do you wait? The real question here is how does it affect the students - the minority students - in our school district? It affects them adversely.”


One former Lee graduate said, while she embraced the name and traditions while she was attending the school, she now winces when she sees the symbols on invitations, cocktail napkins and other items at her high school reunions.

Kristen Baldwin, former TISD board member and the mother of three Lee graduates, said she and her husband spoke recently with their boys about the issue and learned their friends at college were shocked when they heard the name of the high school.


“Any emotional argument needs to be cast aside and do what is in the best interest of our children going forward,” Baldwin said.


However, others said it would be a shame to change the name that has stood since the school opened in 1958. Some said a change for Robert E. Lee High School would also require a change for the city’s other high school because its namesake, John Tyler, was a slave owner. Others said using that reasoning, the name of the city also would have to change.


More than three dozen people spoke during the meeting. Thousands of people on each side have signed online petitions at change.org.


The push comes amid a nationwide movement to remove statues and change the names of schools honoring figures of the Confederacy.


Hager said the board has received a steady stream of input from the community since its last meeting.


“The issue has not gone away,” Hager said. “So I felt it was appropriate for us to discuss it as a board.”


The city of Dallas removed a statue of Robert E. Lee on Thursday and the San Antonio Independent School District voted to change the name of one of its schools named for Lee.


The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Jim Plyler Instructional Complex, 807 W. Glenwood Blvd.

Twitter: @TMT_Cory