The school board voted unanimously to organize a committee to propose a new name for the school. Columbia residents have been requesting a change for over a year, according to to Daris Preis, president of the school board.
“I love this community and I heard about a 6 to 1 ratio of people in favor of it and that’s both tonight in public comments and in the emails and phone conversations that I’ve had over the last month really,” Preis said.
Numerous parents and members of the community urged the school board to change the name while a few defended the school name. The school was originally named for Robert E Lee, but was changed decades ago to an acronym, with Lee standing for Learn, Explore, Express. Preis says the requests have increased due to the Charlottesville protests.
“I think people are very interested in both the safety and security and outlook of the students of our district,” Preis said.
Erica Mason was just one who urged the board to change the name. Mason is a mother of a Lee Elementary School Student and a former employee of the Columbia Public School District.
“I think that conversations like this are essential. I think that even though you are vulnerable and put yourself at risk for sharing such a bold opinion that it is just no longer appropriate to be silent,” Mason said.
“When you are silent then it is easy for other people to direct your silence in whatever direction they want.”
Larry Joe Pauley was one who defended the name by voicing an argument emphasizing the complexity and value of history.
“The school system should not make any changes to monuments or school,” Joe Pauley said, “There’s just a lot of history on both sides of this issue that needs to be discussed. In this country now there is such a division with changing names and tearing down statues is dividing the country apart right now.”