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Comments fly about Robert E. Lee Elementary School’s name

Thursday, September 3, 2015 by Courtney Griffin

In the wake of the removal of the Jefferson Davis statue from the University of Texas campus, the Austin Independent School District board of trustees heard nine residents speak for and against renaming AISD’s Robert E. Lee Elementary School. At Monday’s regular meeting, four residents asked board members to change the name, while five asked them to keep it. Nancy Mims, a parent of a third-grader at Lee, said a petition sent out by parents had garnered 350 signatures. Mims said that on the petition, an African-American woman commented, “I have an obligation to make sure (my two little girls) don’t feel the same sense of insult in their daily life” as she had growing up with reminders of the nation’s history of slavery and racism. But Trey Kerrigan, a commenter against the name change, said there seemed to be a modern desire to render America’s history, and the people in it, into black-and-white, right-and-wrong categories. “I worry about the lesson it gives our children, the lesson that everything is simple. … When a child comes to us and asks why our school is named after Robert E. Lee, shouldn’t we answer history is long and complicated, let’s talk about it?” A recommendation regarding Lee Elementary’s name change is not currently on AISD’s radar, but board President Gina Hinojosa said the district’s Oversight Committee on Excellence through Equity, Diversity and Inclusion – spearheaded by District 6 Trustee Paul Saldaña – is currently looking it over and putting together the issue’s next steps.

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