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Huntsville City Schools Board of Education discussing changing name of Lee High School

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 10:32 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - We’ve seen it across the country, statues being removed and schools changing names over what they represent to some.

Now, Huntsville City school leaders are discussing the possibility of changing the name of Lee High School.

The big question here is would the district be breaking state law to change the name of the school?

The school’s attorney believes the statue may not apply here, but they are working on getting that confirmed with the Attorney General’s Office.

No memorial school which is located on public property and has been so situated for 20 or more years may be renamed; this is straight from the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act.

But some community members say they want Lee High School, named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee, changed.

“This name that you have on here we say is an affront to our students, to our parents, to our community. Should our children be out in a situation that is demeaning that is an affront to them and who they are,” community member Carol Thomas said in public comment.

Lee High School originally opened in the 1950s, but the campus moved to a new building in 2011.

That’s why district attorney Chris Pape says the statue may not apply.

“We think that it’s unlikely that the statue will apply, but we’d rather be collaborative with the Attorney General’s Office, rather than just kind of plowing straight through and not checking,” Pape said.

But if the Attorney General’s office says it does apply...

“That doesn’t mean we’ve lost, it’s the end of the line, that just means that we have to go through the waiver process,” Pape explained.

And if the answer’s still no?

The board will then vote on whether to still move forward with a name change, and pay a $25,000 fine.

“The school system before I was on the board attempted it in 2012. So it’s something that’s been on the minds of the students and the staff and just the community at large,” board president Elisa Ferrell said.

Superintendent Christie Finley says nothing has been decided, and the board will be very transparent through the entire process.

And come this fall, students will even be able to take part in the process.

“When the students do return to school, they will have their elections so that students will be a part of this process,” Finley said.

“There will be ample opportunity and ample notice; for the community to be able to speak and come and address the board,” Pape added.

The school’s attorney says the next step is requesting an opinion letter on the matter from the Attorney General’s Office.

If a name change is approved, it will not take effect in time for the 2021-2022 school year.

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