Just before Thanksgiving, a Texas school board voted to erase more American history.
On Monday, the Austin Independent School District school board voted to change a policy that will allow schools named after historical figures associated with the Confederacy to move forward with changing campus names. The vote came in response to last summer’s shootings of nine black church parishioners during a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The tragedy sparked a politicized national debate. Texas public schools jumped on the bandwagon to shun symbols and dump historical figures that recalled the Confederate South.
The board debated over an hour about the change and ultimately, struck one line from their existing policy that prohibited renaming any property that had a nomenclature of “special historical or geographical significance.” The change allows the board to vote rename any district schools named after Confederate figures. In December, the board will vote on the fate of the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary, the Statesman noted.
At Monday night’s board meeting, Austin City Council Ora Houston urged the school board to change questionable school names, claiming that “we have sanitized the history of the district and have not been honest about the history of the people for whom our schools are named.”
Houston objected to the schools being named after Confederate men like Johnston, Lanier, and Reagan, who she said “did not then and do not now meet the standards of the district for role models.” She called the historical figures “traitors to their country” and of “engaging in warfare to keep human beings who they considered inferior enslaved.”
Other district schools and/or mascots in question for rename are Eastside Memorial High School, Johnston Campus; Sidney Lanier High School, John H. Reagan High School, and William B. Travis High School.
Over the summer, Breitbart Texas reported that Houston ISD, egged on by a letter from Houston Democrat state Sen. Rodney Ellis, called for renaming six campuses that bore the names of Confederate army officers and others associated with the Confederacy. School district Superintendent Terry Grier said he was strongly considering the board make the changes. Breitbart Texas also reported on the contentious debate and ultimate removal of a statue of Jefferson Davis from the University of Texas flagship Austin campus.
Not every school district has agreed with changing campus or mascot names. In July, hundreds of Dallas area Richland High School families, a racially diverse campus, rallied to in support of their school “rebel” mascot, deemed a divisive symbol of the Confederacy by activists.
On Monday night, Austin school board member Houston stated that schools should be named after people who are generational examples of the humanity of people; however, no role models were named in the Statesman’s report.