Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Austin, Texas, wanted to change its name. When its school board voted to do so on 28 March 2016, they decided to open suggestions for a new name to the public (a classic mistake).
According to local news station KXAN, the vote to rename the school came amid growing concern that attaching the Confederate general's name to a school is a divisive issue after a 2015 mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. The shooter in that case identified himself as a white supremacist and was outspoken about his racist views:
Joseph Meek, 20, a childhood friend who reconnected with Mr. Roof this year, said Mr. Roof had changed, spewing racist ideas and talking about wanting “to hurt a whole bunch of people.”
“He was saying all this stuff about how the races should be segregated, that whites should be with whites,” Mr. Meek said. “I could tell there was something inside him, there was something he wouldn’t let go. I was trying to tell him, ‘What’s wrong?’ All he would say was that he was planning to do something crazy.”
The school has been called Robert E. Lee Elementary since it was built in 1939:
Parents, past students, neighbors and community members are divided on the Confederate general’s role in history, and whether or not the school should bear his name. The school’s name was brought into question after the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Their state leaders removed the flag from federal grounds.
The Lee Elementary Campus Advisory Council recommended renaming the school and initiating a renaming process for the campus. The administration will be recommending that the school board side with the council and change the name.
The school board vote to finally change the name went smoothly; the actual process to gather suggestions for the name change a little bit less so. KXAN listed the top suggestions (and a few notable ones) in a follow-up story:
Top 10 renaming recommendations — sorted by most nominated:
- Donald J. Trump Elementary: 45 nominations
- Robert E. Lee Elementary: 34 nominations
- Russell Lee Elementary: 32 nominations
- Harper Lee Elementary: 30 nominations
- Elisabet Ney Elementary: 15 nominations
- Lee Elementary: 13 nominations
- Adolf Hitler School for Friendship and Tolerance: 8 nominations
- Waller Creek Elementary: 8 nominations
- Dr. Frances J. Nesmith Elementary School: 7 nominations
- Guy Bizzell Elementary: 6 nominations
Some of the more notable, but less voted names include:
Adam Lanza’s School of Fun, Bee Movie, Bleeding Heart Liberal Elementary, Boaty McBoatface Elementary School, Forgetting the Past Dooms You to Repeat It Elementary, Garfunkel, Hypothetical Perfect Person Memorial Elementary School, John Cena Elementary and Schooly McSchoolerson.
That last name, which was evidently suggested by Austin-area professor John King, was just another salvo in the vein of the now-legendary Boaty McBoatface, which has now inspired a train route in England temporarily named Trainy McTrainface (to commuters' delight) a racehorse in Australia called Horsey McHorseface, and now Schoolie McSchoolface (and the equally inspired "Schooly McSchoolerson").
The school board gets final say over the elementary school's new name, so Schoolie McSchoolface probably won't be the final decision.
Security has been increased at the school in the meantime.