WJCT News received word Wednesday morning that students of Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee Senior High School planned to walk out of class in protest over their school’s name. But the scheduled time came and went, with no walkout.
According to the student group EVAC, the school administration blocked the protest minutes before its scheduled start time, leaving the high schoolers feeling “intimidated and scared.”
The Riverside-area high school is one of nine schools that the Duval County Public Schools district is considering for name changes. Six of the schools are named for Confederate generals; one school is named for a French Huguenot and an early colonizer of Northeast Florida; two schools are named for President Andrew Jackson, who famously displaced Native American communities in the 19th century.
Supporters of the current names, many of them alumni, say they don’t want to lose their connection to their alma maters. Supporters of choosing new names say public schools should not be named after people who enslaved African Americans and committed acts of violence against Native Americans.
The latest friction comes a day after a contentious community meeting at the high school where the school’s name change was discussed. At a previous meeting, a viral tweet showed a white community member defending the name Robert E. Lee, saying Jesus supported slavery.
And WJCT news partner News4Jax reported Robert E. Lee Senior High School teacher Amy Donofrio was told to take down a Black Lives Matter flag or the janitorial crew would remove it for her.
In response to those events, students hung up their own signs, reading “Black & Proud,” “Keep your head held high,” and “It’s not Black vs. White it’s everyone vs. racism #BlackLivesMatter.”
This morning, Black students at Lee HS hung up their OWN signs in the main office that reiterated the importance of their lives. The signs were promptly ripped down. This atmosphere is intimidating & hostile & WRONG pic.twitter.com/nkSwNVT5JI
— EVAC Movement (@evacmovement) March 24, 2021
Another community meeting over the possible name changes is scheduled for Thursday, March 25, at 6 p.m. at 1200 McDuff Ave S.
Contact Sydney Boles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.