No final word on Robert. E. Lee HS name change given at Goose Creek ISD meeting

BAYTOWN, Texas (KTRK) -- Goose Creek ISD opened a discussion on possibly changing the name of Lee High School at a board meeting on Monday.

The school board met virtually to hear from a coalition of citizens and graduates of the high school, which is named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Many people have seen a wave of Confederate monument removals all across the U.S.

"The history that we learned about Robert E Lee himself, was not the history that we learned later when we graduated from Robert E Lee," said 1988 graduate Kevin Sheade.

The board met with the Baytown United Coalition for Change, Baytown Gander Black Alumni Group, RAZA Alumni Group and the Baytown Robert E. Lee High School Improvement Allies.

"Coalition Members believe having public institutions named in honor of Confederate leaders, such as Lee, conveys and upholds the very suffering of slave ancestors who endured heinous acts of torture and murder," said the Baytown United Coalition for Change in a statement. "The Coalition seeks reform of systemic racism perpetuated by coveting the name of Confederate General Robert E. Lee."

The board heard from more than 20 citizens who attended the virtual meeting. More than half were in favor of renaming the school.

The board did not offer any direction as to whether or not they would consider the name change, or allow a vote.

Meanwhile, in Missouri City, council members will consider and take action on two agenda items related to naming and renaming streets throughout the city.

Streets in Missouri City as whole, and the Vicksburg subdivision in particular, have come under scrutiny for having names that refer to Confederate generals or include "plantation," according to city officials.

For example, Bedford Forrest Court and Bedford Forrest Drive share the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

The first item council will consider would give final approval to an amendment to city code that reduces the percentage of signatures required to rename a city street.

The proposed changes would require 70% of people who own property on a given street to sign a petition in order to apply to change the name of that street. Currently, consent from 90% of homeowners is required.

Council Member Jeffrey Boney, whose district includes the Vicksburg area, proposed this change to city code.

"We have to keep in mind the climate in which we are in," Boney said during the July 20 city council meeting, when council first considered the change. "Lowering the threshold from 90% to a more modest 70% is something I feel like would help the citizens decide if this is something they would like to undertake. We want to give the people more of a voice to be able to express themselves, so I feel like lowering the threshold to 70% will be able to do that."

Council will also receive public comment on and consider giving initial approval to an ordinance that would change how new streets in the city are named.

Under the proposed changes to city code, new street names could only contain a proper name if that person or entity "has contributed to the community or humanity" and could not contain a word or phase deemed "overused." The proposal does not address new subdivision names, as these are considered private property.

City documents show that the intent of prohibiting overused words would limit including "plantation" in future street names as it is currently a part of at least 21 street names within Missouri City or the extraterritorial jurisdiction.

"It's kind of shameful that our city is riddled with Confederate names, KKK names as well as plantations," Mayor Yolanda Ford said.

Missouri City's Planning and Zoning Commission, which plays a key role in reviewing new developments, discussed the proposal at its July 8 meeting but gave it a negative recommendation because more clarification was needed on the naming process, according to city documents.

ABC13's Stefania Okolie will be monitoring any developments and will continue to update this story.

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