Alumni call on MPS to rename high schools, permanently remove Robert E. Lee statue

Updated: Jun. 9, 2020 at 9:29 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - At Tuesday’s Montgomery Public School Board Meeting a group of alumni, students and community members called for the removal of Confederate symbols and names of Confederate soldiers from in and around Lee, Lanier, and Jefferson Davis high schools.

“It’s basically an insult to any black person who has to walk pass the statue or has to be a part of a student body with the name ‘Robert. E. Lee,’” said Amerika Blair, Robert E. Lee class of 2009 graduate.

“We can’t remove the history, which we understand, but we can start rewriting some new history and we can begin something new,” said Marche Johnson, Robert E. Lee class of 2003 graduate. “MPS’ slogan is ‘MPS Moving Forward.’ It’s time for us to start moving forward.”

Tuesday was the first School Board Meeting since protesters took down the statue of Robert E. Lee outside of the school.

Tuesday, protesters stood in front of the statue. “Robert E. Lee was the knee on our children’s neck” they chanted.

Before leaving they put a replica of the Martin Luther King Jr. statue in Washington D.C. where the Robert E. Lee statue once stood.

An online petition to rename several schools in the city has over 20,000 signatures.

Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Ann Roy Moore said she believes the majority of the board would support a name change and the removal the statue as long as doing so would remain in the realm of state law.

“You cannot just spontaneously as a board just go out and change a name, there is a protocol that goes with it and then looking at that protocol, figuring out what we can do as a board to expedite making a decision about a name change,” said Moore.

“I think currently in 2020 those names do not represent the kind of positive things our students are hopefully exposed to on a day to day basis," said Moore. "They represent a part of our history that is, of course, a little controversial, and so if we want our students to be in a climate that really supports the teaching and learning process then some of these names would not be that kind of supportive designation.”

Moore said waivers would need to be signed, and those things do not happen overnight.

“Otherwise in the short term a school system or group could prepare to pay the $25,000 fine,” Moore said.

A fine that protects the removal of these statues under The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017.

However, those against these symbols say they will not stop until there is justice.

“This is not a new fight. There have been several attempts before to get the name changed, to get the statue removed. We’re going to continue to see this to finish we are going to continue to press. We are going to continue to move forward with it. We’re not going to let up until we see it done,” said Blair.

Moore said discussion of name changes or the permanent removal of the statue is not officially on their agenda for their next meeting, but she says they do plan to continue the conversation.

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