Public schools grappling with Confederate names, images

With a new school year dawning, education officials are grappling with whether to remove the names, images and statues of Confederate figures from public schools — especially since some are now filled with students of color.

The violence at a white nationalist rally over a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, is giving school officials a new reason to reconsider whether it’s appropriate for more than 100 schools to be named after Confederate generals and politicians from the Old South.

“It does not make sense to have schools named after individuals who were directly connected to that dark past, and force kids in Dallas, a majority minority population, to walk into these schools every day and have to face this past every single day,” said Miguel Solis, former board president and current board member of the Dallas Independent School District.

Dallas, along with other cities, began moving to change Confederate names and imagery after white nationalist and Confederate enthusiast Dylann Roof murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015.

But the review gained momentum after the Aug. 12 protest by white supremacists in Charlottesville, which left one counter-protester dead.

“We don’t tolerate hate or discrimination of any form, and we are committed to providing an educational environment where all students can feel safe and welcomed at school,” said Superintendent Aurora Lora in Oklahoma City as she announced plans earlier this month to discuss name changes.

Her city has four schools named after Confederate generals, including an elementary school named after Native American Confederate Gen. Stand Watie, who led the Cherokee Regiment of Mounted Rifles. He was the only Native American to achieve the rank of general in the Civil War and was the last Confederate general to surrender, giving up on June 23, 1865.

“We want to think about the people our buildings are named after and whether they represent the values we as a district have at this time,” Lora said.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are at least 109 public schools named after Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis or other Confederate icons in the United States. Of those, “27 have student populations that are majority African-American, and 10 have African-American populations of over 90 percent,” according to the SPLC’s 2016 report.

Several school names were changed, or new schools were built and named after Confederates “during the era of white…

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