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Huntsville City schools considering name change for Lee High School

The school was named after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Posted: Jun 8, 2021 6:30 PM
Updated: Jun 9, 2021 12:32 AM

A Huntsville school's name, around since the 1950's, could be forever changed. Tuesday night, Superintendent Christie Finley with Huntsville City Schools announced a proposal to rename Lee High School.

The school is named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Lee High School (Image from Lee High School website)

This is the first time discussion to rename Lee High School has come up since it moved into its new location off Meridian Street. While Finley said the decision to rename it will ultimately be made by the Lee community, a state law could get in the way.

"This is going to be a very slow, a very intentional and transparent process," Finley said.

She will be focused on working with the community to answer two questions - should the school be renamed? If so, what should it be?

However, school board attorney, Christopher Pape, is focused on another issue.

"I will work with the board members in making sure that the process the board undertakes complies with the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act," Pape said.

According to the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act, a "memorial" school that has been around for 20 years or more cannot be renamed.

Pape said they are working to determine if Lee is considered a "memorial" school since it is named after a confederate general and if the AG's office will take into account the high school was relocated into a new building just 10 years ago.

"The currently building itself was built in 2011," Pape said. "Which is obviously not 20 years ago."

Pape said they have already begun seeking informal guidance from the Attorney General's office. The next step would be to write a letter on behalf of the board to get approval to rename the school. If that is denied, the board can apply for a waiver.

Ultimately, if the AG's office denies the waiver, there is a $25,000 fine the board can pay.

"Once that's paid, the renaming can happen, regardless of the other steps," Pape said.

Principal Tony Woods said he intends to remain neutral throughout the process, a process that is just now beginning.

"This is not a sprint, it's a marathon," Woods said.

Finley said they will present a timeline of the process at the next board meeting scheduled June 15.

Some members of the community are already voicing their opinions. A representative from the Huntsville/Madison County chapter of the NAACP told WAAY 31 they are in support of renaming Lee High School.

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