Julian Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), stirred up some controversy at a San Antonio high school named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee. In recent weeks, he called for a name change. Not everyone agrees with the former San Antonio mayor.
Now, North East Independent School District officials say employees cannot even publicly comment on the issue. Human Resources Executive Director Joel Treviño “gag ordered” employees from discussing anything to do with the high school’s name.
This week, he told staff in a memo, “While we understand that people have passionate opinions on this issue, it is important to remember that as District employees, you must be careful in expressing those opinions publicly as they are to cause disruption to the operations of schools.”
The memo expressed an understanding “that employees have First Amendment rights, but such rights must be balanced against the District’s compelling interest in making sure there are no disruptions to its schools, and the law allows for limitation of District employees’ speech when it causes any such disruption.”
Treviño cited internet postings, social media sites, and other electronic communications as trouble spots.
Breitbart Texas reported that Secretary Castro initially declared on his personal Facebook page that, in his opinion, there were more appropriate individuals to honor as the high school’s namesake. He failed to named any specific alternative role models. His statement followed the tragic hate crime shootings of nine Black church parishioners during a Bible study in Charleston.
Then, in mid-July, Castro stoked the flames in a satellite interview with KENS-5. He said: “I believe the NEISD should consider changing the name of the school. That’s my hope,” he added. “Whether they went to Robert E. Lee or not, to think about the meaning of the name of the school. Especially to the many African American students who go there.”
Castro asked everyone to look at the meaning of the name of the school but somehow overlooked taking an equally important glance at the meaning of the organization that his mother co-founded, the radical, anti-white, socialist Chicano party called La Raza Unida (“The Race United”). It sought to create a separate country–Aztlan–in the Southwest, which Breitbart News reported repeatedly and also examined the radical liberalism under which Castro was reared. The rising progressive star’s name is often tossed around as a vice presidential candidate on a 2016 Democratic Hillary Clinton presidential ticket.
Castro also left out that the high school dealt with any perceived holdover confederate issues back in 1991. For example, they banned the flag which was on a shoulder patch worn by the school football players. In 57 years, there is little interest to rename the school.
Following the HUD czar’s recent comments, individuals who want to keep the school name took to selling #LetLeeBe bumper stickers and t-shirts. Alumnus Tim Adams told the local ABC News affiliate that funds raised will be used benefit community outreach and cover any possible expenses associated with the effort to preserve the high school’s name.
“We were surprised to see the social-media post (from Castro),” said Aubrey Chancellor, North East ISD spokeswoman. She told the San Antonio Express-News, “We have not heard from any community members, parents, students, anyone at all, asking for a name change. In fact, since news of the comment came out, I’ve actually heard from numerous alums of Lee High School who are adamantly opposed to changing the name.”
There are no plans to change the school’s name and now, but no one can talk about it either. KENS-5 reported that employees will face disciplinary action if they break the directive in the memo. North East ISD said it applies this policy when it comes to other matters the district considers sensitive.
Treviño advised that any name change for the high school is the responsibility of the district’s board of trustees. He asked that any student, parent, or community member who wishes to express their views on the school’s name should contact the board in writing or during the public comment portion of monthly meetings.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.