Confederate Schools in Minority Communities: Will Their Names Change?

Memorials can come down, but schools are a trickier situation.

By Texas StandardJuly 1, 2015 3:48 pm

Perhaps you’ve dropped your kids off at one of the many Lee Elementary Schools in Texas, or driven by a Jackson Middle School. Maybe you’ve passed Reagan High School in Houston and assumed it was named for the former Republican president, when in fact, it was the Confederate postmaster general John H. Reagan. School officials across the state have been trying to grapple with this issue, but it may prove more complicated than it seems.

Texas Standard spoke with Matthew Watkins from the Texas Tribune, who has been working with Mallory Busch and Annie Daniel on a piece that catalogs Texas public schools named after Confederate leaders.

On their researcher’s findings:

“We looked at Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson and Albert Sidney Johnston — some of the big names that have been important to Texans over the years,” Watkins says. “We found 28 public schools in the state named after those leaders. Interestingly though, only five of those had a majority of white students.”

On school officials trying to change the schools’ names:

“It depends on where you are. Some places — especially in these big cities — there’s definitely a movement and I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw some name changes,” Watkin says. At Lee Elementary in Austin, which is majority white, those changes may be coming soon. “Some of the school leaders are going to meet in July to discuss whether or not some change should be made in the coming months,” he adds.

On the difficulty in changing a name:

“You have to change signs and then there’s also paraphernalia – certain things that would have to be done,” Watkins says. “A Houston school district . . . a few years ago changed a Lamar High School’s nickname from the Redskins . . . and I believe it cost about $250,000 dollars to make that change.”