300 sign petition to remove Confederate names from AISD schools

About 330 community members have signed a petition asking the Austin school board to strike the names of Confederate figures from five of its schools.

The issue is likely to draw a split vote at the Austin school board meeting tonight.

The East Austin Coalition for Quality Education on Monday also came down in favor of renaming the five schools with ties to the Confederacy, and called a news conference prior to the board meeting.

“We need to encourage our leaders to step up and be counted right now,” said Nelson Linder, president of the NAACP Austin chapter. “This is racism. Let’s condemn it, address it, educate folks and go forward to a better future…This is a moral issue. It’s about integrity. We need to correct this and make sure we hold these public officials accountable.”

Group members also called on the district to engage in ongoing community conversations about history and race.

Co-chairs of the group, Nancy Mims and Yannis Banks, said in a statement Monday, that “the district’s stated values of ‘equity, diversity, and inclusion’ are incompatible with continuing to honor symbols of white supremacy. We should instead model our values for current and future students by choosing names that honor marginalized peoples whose contributions to our community have been intentionally erased, thereby building up alternative inclusive narratives.”

The group was instrumental in revamping admissions policies at the nationally-ranked Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School, or LASA, and Kealing Middle School’s magnet program, in order to diversify the schools.

But some trustees have continue to raise concerns about the name changes, saying the board’s action on the matter has felt very top-down because it was not prompted by a call from community members, as was the case in 2016 when the board renamed the former Robert E. Lee Elementary. Multiple students and alumni also have told the board they don’t want the school names changed.

However, coalition member Kazique Prince, a senior policy advisor on Austin Mayor Steve Adler’s task force on institutional racism, said the work group is a reflection of hundreds of community members from across the city who want to see the names changed.

“We are a city that professes to be focused on progressive values and really valuing every person across the community and what we see is people saying, ‘We want to take a stand on this issue. We want the school district to take a stand.’…The names of these schools do not reflect the values of our city.”

Trustee Ann Teich, who has raised concerns about renaming schools and said she is likely to abstain from the vote, said in an email to Mims that she will ask community members who have pushed for the change to pay the costs for new signs, paint, and branding on campus.

Paying for the name changes “would demonstrate true commitment,” among those who want the change, Teich said.

District documents show costs could exceed $77,000 per secondary school.

The school board is considering renaming the following five campuses:

• The Allan facility (the former Allan Elementary), named for John T. Allan, an officer in the Confederate army.

• Reagan High School, named for John H. Reagan, the Confederacy’s postmaster general.

• Eastside Memorial High School at the Johnston campus, which is named for Gen. Albert S. Johnston.

• Lanier High School, named for Sidney Lanier, a noted poet who fought for the Confederacy.

• Fulmore Middle School, named for Zachary Taylor Fulmore, a private in the Confederate army.

Do you have a suggestion as to what the schools should be renamed? Let us know below:

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