- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2018

An East Texas school board was about to take a vote on whether to rename Robert E. Lee High School. But it couldn’t get anyone to second the motion.

According to Tyler TV station KYTX, channel 19, members of the Tyler Independent School District board engaged in an hour of passionate speeches before leaving hanging a stunned public audience.

The CBS affiliate reported that no board member seconded the motion to vote on the resolution to change Lee High School’s name despite five members of the board having backed a final vote at an earlier board meeting, in late July.
The meeting then quickly adjourned.

Channel 19 reported that several of the board members’ speeches implied that they wanted to back changing the name of the school so as not to honor the Confederate general.

“Why should we give present-day powers to [Robert E. Lee’s] actions by continuing to place a negative stereotype on a school building named after him,” board member Jean Washington said.

However, she and at least two other members said the effort had been tainted by its supporters and threatening messages to board members.

The “situation has gone too far,” Ms. Washington said.

“To those that say that keeping the name is a legacy of hate, leave it to be remembered that hate is a learned behavior,” she said. “A name on a building should not foster that. If anything, it should teach the students how far we as a nation have come.”

Board member Patricia Mason said “those who have resorted to attacks, threats, name-calling or character assassination have had their words devalued and their own true character revealed.”

KYTX said the “most passionate statement” was a 10-minute soliloquy from the Rev. Orenthia Mason, who said any decision would have “no real winners.”

“You elected citizens who will make sound, intelligent decisions about the education of students. Trustees are not political puppets,” she said. “Now we are being put on the forefront of a cultural issue, a societal issue.”

She then spoke about her dissatisfaction withthe public debate and Tyler’s black community.

“I’ve been in situations in public where attacks were made on Mrs. Washington and and upon me, and said it clear in the newspaper, that the black community is divided. And once we continue to attack each other, then the other citizens in the community will come to the conclusion that we don’t know how to work together,” Ms. Mason said.

Renaming of schools and other institutions, plus the removal of statues, has become commonplace across the South, especially in the wake of last summer’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., which was in favor of keeping Confederate statues but was used by white nationalists and Nazis and ended with a fatal attack on counterprotesters.

Elsewhere in Texas, a Lee High School in San Antonio is being renamed for this fall the “Legacy of Educational Excellence High School” (L.E.E.), in part in response to the fatal Charlottesville rally.

A group of alumni at Lee High School in Midland delivered an online petition to that West Texas city’s school board in the wake of the Virginia rally too. But top board officials refused, saying improving education matters more and that an internet petition is not evidence the broader Midland community wants to change the school’s name.

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