Tulsans react to Robert E. Lee Elementary name change compromise

Posted at 9:12 PM, May 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-09 08:52:23-04

TULSA - Two schools with the same controversy bearing the names some people find to be racially insensitive; However, one school's name was changed slightly and the other given an overhaul. 

"A person or thing with a reputation," is what the Webster Dictionary calls a name. 

"Friends and I had talked about, 'Robert E Lee, that's still a school in Tulsa, how is that even possible in the twenty-first century?'" said local educator Nehemiah Frank. 

He and a group of Tulsans call this name a disgrace.

"And it's sad that in the twenty-first century we are continuing the legacy of racial hatred," he said.

Monday he and other community members stood before the TPS Board of Education begging them to reconsider.

"I honestly think they made a poor choice."

They came up with a compromise, taking the advice and research of a Lee Elementary Ad Hoc Committee it voted with the 60 percent of survey respondents to change the school's name to only Lee School.

"When I heard about it I was just like let's do what we need to do to make it right," said Lee School Parent Holly Hill. 

Most Lee parents agreed the name should change.

"I think it's great that we can move forward and keep that going,and keep Lee as the tradition it's been for almost 100 years now," said Lee School Parent Christian Tolen.

But many struggled with letting go of what's familiar.

All of the parents 2 Works for You spoke with had an opinion on this topic whether they're from the area or not. 

However, not all of them were comfortable going on camera. 

A few people said if you can't change history, why take the time to change the name?

Betsy Richert's mother went to the school in the 20s. 

"It didn't bother me either way, and I thought the school board came up with a good compromise."

But Frank said there's no compromise in this. 

"Tradition does not trump what's correct."

He said there's only one place for names like Robert E. Lee.

"History belongs in the textbooks."

TPS said the costs associated with changing the names won't be paid by the district.

The superintendent is working to find private donations.

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