A California state lawmaker wants the San Diego Unified School District to rename an elementary school named after a Confederate general.
Robert E. Lee Elementary School, known as Lee Elementary, was named in the late 1950s and serves children in the Paradise Hills community. District officials say documents show Lee's record as an “American soldier and educator” was listed as the reasons his name was chosen for the school.
Lee, who was a West Point graduate and served in the U.S. Army, is best known as a commander in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Now, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) wants the district to change the name because of what she describes as confederate-related symbolism.
Gonzalez sent a letter Monday to the Superintendent Cindy Marten in which she said the community in her district, “deserves a school named after someone we can all admire. Robert E. Lee is not that person.”
SDUSD officials responded with this statement sent to NBC 7 Thursday:
We are sensitive to the concerns voiced by some members of the community that it may not be appropriate to have a school named after Robert E. Lee. We see this as a wonderful opportunity to have a larger community dialogue with students, staff and families about the school name and look at the history and research surrounding Lee in order to make a collectively informed decision about changing the name or retaining it. Should the community determine a name change is appropriate, there is a clear process for school naming that is inclusive of a variety of stakeholders and provides clear rationale for a new name.
Because classes at Lee Elementary ended before Assemblywoman Gonzalez' letter was sent, SDUSD spokesperson Ursula Kroemer said it's likely any discussion of a name change would not take place until the start of the 2016-17 school year.
The process for changing a school's name can be found on the district's website.
The school serves a diverse student body that, according to the district, is identified as 75 percent Hispanic, six percent Filipino, six percent multi-racial, five percent African American, two percent Caucasian and less than two percent Pacific Islander.
From politicians to businesses, there have been many calls nationwide to remove Confederate imagery in the wake of the June 17 shooting inside an historic black church in South Carolina. The man accused of killing nine people during bible study inside the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church had a Confederate battle flag on his license plate.