BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) East Baton Rouge School Board Member Dadrius Lanus has written a formal letter to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System to change the name of Lee Magnet High School.
“To maintain the honorable distinction of having one of our premier designated magnet schools named after the legacy of an infamous slave owner and confederate general is no longer an acceptable reality amongst those that seek racial harmony in this community,” Lanus said in the letter.
Lanus said he has received multiple complaints from students and parents who find the name of their school disturbing.
“None of our students should feel intimidated, insulted or unwelcome at any of our sites, simply because we choose to not acknowledge family and pain and generational trauma,” Lanus said.
Lee High School was formerly known as Robert E. Lee High School. Council members voted to keep the “Lee High” name in 2016.
“A last name tells a lot about a person, and this school still holds that moniker for Robert E. Lee someone who was not only a slave owner but was the confederate general for the confederate army,” Lanus said in an interview on Wednesday.
Lanus vocalized the name does honor history, but only one side of it.
“It’s a history for sure and it’s also a history of black people. it’s a history of people who have been oppressed for a very long time. It’s a history of hatred. It’s a history of bigotry, it’s a history of racism. It’s a history that needs to be just that, history. So we can move forward and build a future,” Lanus said.
Lee Magnet High was once known as Robert E. Lee High School. Some argue removing the confederate general’s first name was enough. Lanus wants the name gone completely.
“It is not welcomed here any longer and it needs to be fixed and eradicated immediately,” Lanus said.
School Board Member Connie Bernard voted to keep the name in 2016. Bernard said she would support keeping the name if that’s what her constituents and alumni support.
Bernard said she was contacted by alumni in 2016 who expressed they wanted to keep the name and because of that she supported it as well.
“We thought it was best to keep the name in honor of the long legacy of the alumni,” Bernard said. “I’m sure I will be contacted by alumni again.”
Bernard said she’s also worried about costs to change uniforms and signs in and outside of the school.
When asked what she would say to parents and students who feel uncomfortable going to a school that honors the name of Robert E. Lee, she said “I would hope that they would learn a little bit more about General Lee, because General Lee inherited a large plantation and he was tasked with the job of doing something with those people who lived in bondage to that plantation, the slaves, and he freed them.”
Lanus argued it’s not about the alumni or the past, it’s about the movement that’s happening right now and looking toward the future.
“It’s not for them to understand, I think they had their time when they were in school but now we have to do whats best for our students moving forward, We are in a transitional phase within our school system going through our superintendent search and we just want to make sure we move in the right direction and considering the long history of what has gone on in our system,” Lanus said.
Lanus said the next steps in the name changing process will be getting approval from the superintendent, adopting a resolution and forming a committee to select the new name change.