District could delay Lee School name change for new options

A Tulsa school district wants to delay renaming a school whose namesake is Confederate General Robert E. Lee amid pushback that the new name isn't so new.

Tulsa Public Schools voted last month to rename the elementary school "Lee School," but many residents questioned why the school would keep the general's surname, saying the change wouldn't do enough to remove its Confederate origins.

Hundreds of people had petitioned to change the school's name following violent protests last year at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Principal Aubrey Flowers wrote to parents Thursday, saying the Tulsa Board of Education plans to discuss delaying the July 1 date of the official name change, the Tulsa World reported. Flowers said the delay will allow the board to create a committee representing the school community to develop a new name nomination.

"The item will provide for the board to convene a larger committee representative of the school community to meet during the summer months and develop a new name nomination," Flowers wrote.

The school's original name, Robert E. Lee Elementary School, which will remain in effect until a new name is officially approved.

The school board's split decision last month to use the name Lee School was widely criticized. Two board members who voted in favor of the Lee School name have since said they regret the process that led to the vote, which they and others felt didn't involve the school community.

The board is scheduled to meet Monday.

The protest in Virginia also prompted education officials in Oklahoma City to change the name of three elementary schools named after Confederate generals. Among them was Lee Elementary School, also named after Robert E. Lee. That school was renamed to honor Oklahoma philanthropist Adelaide Lee — but an Oklahoma City school board member said keeping the Lee surname was "a slap in the face" to black residents.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com