Posted on October 9, 2018

In 4-2 Decision, Staunton School Board Votes to Rename R. E. Lee High

Matthew Fultz, WHSV-TV, October 9, 2018

After months of debate, the Staunton School Board decided in a 4-2 vote Monday evening to strip Robert E. Lee High School of the name it was given in 1914.

An online survey will be launched this week for city residents to suggest new names for the school, according to the board. {snip}


The debate drew strong reaction from people in the Queen City. Those who supported the change argued the name Robert E. Lee was offensive and isolating to minorities due to its connection to the Confederacy.

There had been an ongoing push over recent years to return the name of the school to Staunton High School, which it bore until the school board voted to rename it in honor of Lee in 1914. Efforts to change the name persisted over about a decade, but the movement gained new supporters following the deadly violence of the “Unite the Right” rally centered around a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville last year.


But others fought for keeping the name, arguing it preserved history.

“I don’t think that the school board reflects the majority of the constituents that they’re serving,” said Bill Meade, who was against the change.

A study released by the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities last month highlighted three possible compromises: referring to the school as just “Lee High School,” changing back to its original name “Staunton High School,” or adopting the name of the African-American school before Lee was integrated, “Booker T. Washington High School.”

The authors of the study {snip} made a clear emphasis that they are acting without bias.


The school board has previously addressed questions about the costs associated with renaming the school, saying it’s safe to estimate $200,000 would be needed to replace athletic gear with the school’s branding, but that that amount represents less than one percent of the school division’s operating budget of $31.8 million. Many of the costs are expected to be absorbed as part of the city’s already-existing plans for renovations to the school in 2019.