Robert E. Lee Elementary to Be Renamed over Public Objections

Eleven months after California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) pressured the San Diego Unified School District to change the name of San Diego’s Robert E. Lee Elementary, school officials are pushing forward with the change, and despite calls from the public to keep the name.

Two surveys of a combined 1,281 people inside the San Diego Unified School District conducted last November revealed that a mere 35.6 percent favored changing the name. Of those surveyed just within the Lee community — including current staff, families and students of the school — two-thirds either opposed a name change or had no opinion. The majority within the community want to keep the name Robert E. Lee Elementary School.

SDUSD stated that it provided two forums to allow input from a “variety of stakeholders” including, “community members, principals, bargaining unit representatives, and district staff.”

At the first forum held last October, the survey was proposed with the stated intention of engaging the community, reporting results of the survey and moving forward with renaming “if clearly recommended.”

Ultimately, the results of the survey repeatedly showed a significant majority that preferred to keep the name Robert E. Lee Elementary.

Regardless of the school community’s desire to keep the name, school district officials pushed the issue forward to the Schools Name Committee, which unanimously pushed the name change according to 10 News.

The name change was proposed in the wake of last year’s mass shooting incident in South Carolina, where Dylann Roof shot and killed nine members of a historic black church. Roof had posted a photo of himself online with a Confederate flag, prompting national discussion of the flag and places named after Confederate figures such as Lee. (On Tuesday, news broke that the United States Department of Justice will seek the death penalty against Roof.)

SDUSD describes Robert E. Lee Elementary School as “very diverse.” More than three quarters of the school’s population are Hispanic. The rest of the school is made up of several small minority demographics: “6.6% Filipino, 6.4% Multi-racial, 5.5% African American, 2.5% Caucasian, 1.9% Pacific Islanders and 0.3% Asian.”

Several other names were suggested for renaming the elementary school, despite community opposition to the change. Almost 60 percent wanted to maintain the name Lee Elementary. Only 28 percent preferred an entirely new name. It was only among the non-Lee community that respondents indicated a preference for an entirely new name. However, the non-Lee community, when given the option to keep the name as is, preferred that option.

Ultimately, despite several polling measures that indicated majority support for keeping the name Robert E. Lee Elementary, even within the primarily Hispanic school community, school administrators are moving forward with the process of changing the name.

Among the next steps listed in a presentation from the second community forum was a possible name change to Frederick Douglass, the famous abolitionist (and Republican).

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana 


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