When the school year kicks off next August, four Dallas elementary schools will sport new names after a vote by the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees last night. The board voted 9-0 to require that schools named for Albert Sidney Johnston, Stonewall Jackson, William L. Cabell and Robert E. Lee, all Confederate generals, be rechristened by next July.
Johnston, Jackson and Cabell elementary schools will form committees charged with proposing new names to the board by February. Lee has already come up with a new name, Geneva Heights Elementary, so the board elected not to make the school go through the process again.
The board expected a big crowd Thursday, moving the meeting from board headquarters on Ross Avenue to the spacious auditorium of Emmett Conrad High School in Vickery Meadow. But only about a dozen speakers, all from Stonewall Jackson, showed up to make a case for dumping the general from his post as the school's namesake or keeping the status quo.
Seth Laughlin, the father of a Stonewall Jackson student, urged the board to ignore arguments made by those who believe stripping Confederate names from Dallas ISD schools will lead the district down a path to removing the names of other historical figures like Sam Houston or Thomas Jefferson.
"History's not going anywhere. History is in the history books," Laughlin said. "I just caution when we look to history — there's been plenty of slippery-slope arguments that have been made to hold up social justice."
David Coons, another Stonewall Jackson dad, said he was opposed to changing the name in a knee-jerk reaction to current events. "This politically motivated initiative is causing a rift in a perfectly run school that has no components of racism or oppression whatsoever," Coons said.
While the board voted unanimously to require the name changes, there was debate over whether to allow the schools to select shortened versions of their current name as replacement monikers. At Stonewall Jackson, specifically, some parents have pushed to have the school renamed Stonewall Elementary.
"I don’t want to handicap the community by taking away options," trustee Joyce Foreman said, arguing for shortened names to be considered. "This is a diversion from the real problem. Let's get these names changed and start working on some real issues."
Opponents of allowing the shortened names, including Dan Micciche, the board president, said the schools needed a clean break from their Confederate names. "Change should be real, not superficial," he said, before the board voted 5-4 not to allow the shortened names.
According to district estimates, renaming the four schools will cost about $150,000, an amount that includes funds for replacing signs, changing school logos and other miscellaneous items.