What’s in a name? In this case, a lot.

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What’s in a name? In this case, a lot.

Sidney Lanier was the latest and last Austin ISD namesake with Confederate ties still standing, but on March 25, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of Lanier High School to Juan Navarro High School. Navarro is a Lanier alumnus who was killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2012. Illustration by Bella Russo.

Sidney Lanier was the latest and last Austin ISD namesake with Confederate ties still standing, but on March 25, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of Lanier High School to Juan Navarro High School. Navarro is a Lanier alumnus who was killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2012. Illustration by Bella Russo.

Bella Russo

Sidney Lanier was the latest and last Austin ISD namesake with Confederate ties still standing, but on March 25, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of Lanier High School to Juan Navarro High School. Navarro is a Lanier alumnus who was killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2012. Illustration by Bella Russo.

Bella Russo

Bella Russo

Sidney Lanier was the latest and last Austin ISD namesake with Confederate ties still standing, but on March 25, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of Lanier High School to Juan Navarro High School. Navarro is a Lanier alumnus who was killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces in Afghanistan in 2012. Illustration by Bella Russo.

Despite concerns over cost and a lost of school pride, changing the name of schools named after former Confederates is necessary and will help communities grow and move forward

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Recently, the Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees voted to change the names of several AISD schools such as Reagan Early College High School (now Northeast Early College High School), Fulmore Middle School (now Sarah Lively Middle School), and Lanier High School (now Navarro High School), in an effort to cut ties from the Confederate leaders after which they were originally named.

If McCallum were to be renamed to something else, we would resist the change, but eventually, we would accept the new name especially if it honored someone who was deserving.”

Confederates soldiers like Zachary Taylor Fulmore and Sidney Lanier, all the way to the generals Albert S. Johnston and Robert E. Lee and the Postmaster-General John H. Reagan, have long had their names plastered across AISD campuses. These schools needed to be renamed, and the fact that action is finally being taken in 2019 is a promising step for the future.

These figures should be taught in history classes so students can fully understand the story of the Civil War and how the country was as fragmented and racially divided, but these figures should not be honored or immortalized with their name looming over the front entrance of AISD schools. The proposed and passed name changes look to honor innovators and educators that have shaped their communities and have left a positive mark on them.

Newly named Lively Middle School, named after teacher Sarah Lively, who taught at the school for 47 years, is one of the five schools that will be getting a name change for a combined cost of $70,000. This price tag is significant but worth it because the names are remnants of a bitter conflict in the nation’s history that should not be honored anymore—removing the connection between these remnants and our schools’ identities is worth a small bite out of the budget.

Minority students deserve positive role models, not ones who would have opposed their very presence at the schools they attend. ”

The schools also need to be renamed because they are generally outdated. They are all named after people who lived and died in the 1800s to early 1900s. Choosing more modern figures to serve as namesakes can better represent the diverse and contemporary populace that AISD serves.
Ultimately, to honor members of an army, and for a time, an independent country that supported slavery and was traitorous to the United States by naming a school after them, especially at schools that serve a significant minority population, is insensitive and unjust.

Supporters of keeping the names argue that the names represent the school’s history are a source of school pride. While this is no doubt true, it is also true that in time the new names will take on the same significance especially because they are honoring a more positive legacy. If McCallum were to be renamed to something else, we would resist the change, but eventually, we would accept the new name especially if it honored someone who was deserving.

Like all students, minority students deserve positive role models, not ones who would have opposed their very presence at the schools they attend. Lively was a teacher who had a profound impact on her students, while Navarro was an Army officer that was killed in 2012 in Afghanistan. These name changes seem to honor deserving figures who made a significant contribution to the campuses that now bear their name.

These schools needed to be renamed, and the fact that action is finally being taken in 2019 is a promising step for the future. ”

The only name change that does not make sense to us is the change from Reagan to Northeast High. Instead of paying tribute to someone deserving from the community, the district decided that the school should just be named after the literal location of the campus. Reagan students have a right to be upset about their school’s renaming; they should have had a say in their school’s new moniker. Besides this particular choice, the name changes are positive changes for the schools and the communities they serve.

These name changes for Fulmore and Lanier make sense and although Reagan’s name change is not perfect, it is a step in the right direction to update a name that has been long outdated.

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