Folks interested in coming up with a new name for Robert E. Lee High School in Baton Rouge — or keeping it just the way it is — will get their chance to brainstorm this Thursday night.
The community forum, announced Monday afternoon, is in response to criticism lodged during a heated East Baton Rouge Parish School Board meeting Thursday night from prominent black leaders in Baton Rouge. They asked for another meeting to come up with more alternatives to the chosen new name for the school, Lee Magnet High School, saying it should have a name with no connection to the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The board deadlocked along racial lines on a request to go back and consider names that eliminate Lee entirely, but Superintendent Warren Drake said he was OK with the idea, and discussions have continued since Thursday.
A renaming committee held a sparsely attended meeting May 31. They convened after Drake agreed to a request brought earlier in the year by Lee High parents to consider renaming the school.
The committee, in accordance with the school system’s “Naming of Facilities” policy, returned three names to Drake. Of those, Drake selected Lee Magnet High School, the name parents had originally requested. It preserves “Lee,” removes “Robert E.” and adds “Magnet.” The other two names sent to Drake were Harper Lee Magnet High School and Southdowns Magnet High School.
The School Board plans to vote on the issue at its June 16 meeting. It could keep the current name, rename it slightly as parents had requested, or come up with a new name entirely.
In 2005, Lee High changed its mascot from the “Rebels” to the “Patriots.” These days it usually leaves “Robert E.” out of school literature and promotions. Robert E. Lee High, nevertheless, remains the school’s official name, as it has since it opened in September 1959.
In its planning stages and during initial construction, the school was named Southdowns High School, but the name was changed in May 1958 to Robert E. Lee High School.
This year’s naming debate comes after a $54.7 million reconstruction of the school and weeks before students arrive for the 2016-17 school year.
The community forum is scheduled 6 p.m. Thursday at the Instructional Resource Center, next to the School Board Office at 1022 S. Foster Drive.