At Majority-Minority Schools, Confederate Names Remain

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At Midland’s Robert E. Lee High School — where 31 percent of the student body is white — the football team is nicknamed the Rebels and fans sometimes fly Confederate flags to show their support. But a civil rights group has called for change.

Across the state at Houston’s Lee High School, which is 4 percent white, district leaders dropped the “Robert E.” from the school’s title years ago to distance the school from the Confederate general.

Those schools are two of many across the state grappling with old Confederate names. Many of those school names are decades old. But many of those schools’ populations represent the new Texas – with nonwhites making up more than half of their students. 

The Texas Tribune identified 28 public schools in Texas named after Confederate leaders Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston. (Scroll down to see the complete list of schools.) Of those, five have a majority of white students. Across the nation, there has been greater scrutiny of Confederate symbols and tributes after last month’s fatal shooting of nine people inside a black church in South Carolina. Stores have stopped selling Confederate flags, statues on college campuses have been vandalized and names have been reconsidered.

Some changes have already been made at the Texas schools. In Midland, the Confederate flag was eliminated as a school symbol in 1991. But Marisa Kent, a 2012 graduate, said many fans and supporters still use it, with some white students hanging it in their truck windows. 

Days after the Charleston shooting, the civil rights group Una Voz Unida called on the Midland school district to change Lee High School’s name. District offices are closed this week, and administrators couldn’t be reached for comment on whether that’s a possibility. But Kent said she thinks a change is unlikely. Many students and alumni value the tradition of the name, she said. 

“People say he was a general in the war and his bravery needs to be recognized,” she said, adding that she’d like to at least see a discussion.

Cries for change are more popular in urban areas. Lee Elementary in Austin was founded in 1939. Now, the man the school is named for is rarely mentioned in classrooms, though a portrait of the general remains in a hallway.

“You rarely see or hear the full name, except on the big sign on the top of the building,” said Dave Junker, a white parent whose black adopted children attend the school. “There has clearly been ambivalence about it over the last few years.”

The school is 63 percent white. It’s diverse, but less so than the rest of Austin ISD, said Junker. He’s part of a committee of parents, teachers and administrators that plans to meet next month to consider dropping the name.

That kind of discussion will also happen at Houston ISD, which has four schools named after Confederate leaders, including Lee High School. School board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones has said she plans to propose renaming the schools soon, but nothing has been made official.

“We are looking into this issue and are certainly open to having conversations about it,” said district spokeswoman Holly Huffman. 

See the Demographics of Texas Schools Named After Confederate Leaders

Using data from the Texas Education Agency’s 2013-14 Texas Academic Performance Report, The Texas Tribune collected demographic data of public schools named after Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Albert Sidney Johnston and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The origins of the schools’ names were verified via the schools’ websites or by a school representative. Schools that could not be verified were not included on this list. “Nonwhite” refers to students reported as African-American, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander or Two or More Races in the TEA report.

 
 

Nonwhite White

Robert E. Lee Elementary

Eagle Pass ISD

420 students

100%

Albert Sidney Johnston Elementary

Dallas ISD

486 students

99.4%0.6%

Robert E. Lee Elementary

Port Arthur ISD

766 students

99.1%0.9%

Jefferson Davis High

Houston ISD

1,611 students

99.1%0.9%

Lee Elementary

Edinburg CISD

495 students

99%1%

Jackson Middle

Houston ISD

931 students

98.7%1.2%

Lee Elementary

El Paso ISD

670 students

97.4%2.5%

Lee High

Houston ISD

1,359 students

96.3%3.7%

Lee Elementary

Grand Prairie ISD

774 students

93.7%6.2%

Lee Elementary

Amarillo ISD

362 students

93.6%6.4%

Johnston Middle

Houston ISD

1,677 students

87.4%12.5%

Lee High

North East ISD

2,498 students

87.3%12.7%

Robert E. Lee High

Goose Creek CISD

1,440 students

87.2%12.7%

Robert E. Lee Elementary

Dallas ISD

363 students

81.8%18.2%

Lee Elementary

Denton ISD

573 students

77%23%

Robert E. Lee Elementary

Marshall ISD

316 students

75.6%24.4%

Robert E. Lee Freshman High

Midland ISD

805 students

71.5%28.6%

Robert E. Lee Intermediate

Gainesville ISD

464 students

69.8%30.2%

Lee Elementary

Abilene ISD

414 students

69.2%30.7%

Johnston Elementary

Abilene ISD

564 students

68.6%31.4%

Robert E. Lee High

Midland ISD

2,136 students

68.6%31.3%

Lee Middle

San Angelo ISD

963 students

62.7%37.3%

Robert E. Lee High

Tyler ISD

2,550 students

60%40%

Stonewall Jackson Elementary

Dallas ISD

614 students

42.1%58%

Lee Elementary

Austin ISD

370 students

36.9%63.2%

Robert Lee Elementary

Robert Lee ISD

132 students

35.6%64.4%

Robert Lee High

Robert Lee ISD

96 students

35.4%64.6%

Stonewall Elementary

Fredericksburg ISD

109 students

16.5%83.5%
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