Hillsborough school board to seek public opinion on renaming Robert E. Lee Elementary

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For the first time, the members of the Hillsborough County school board are seeking public opinion on whether to change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary in Tampa.

The effort comes two years after attempts to change the name didn’t gain traction.

Board member Tamara Shamburger made the official request at the end of the board meeting Tuesday for the district to look into the matter.

District policy requires at least 18 months of public feedback and meetings.

Nearly a dozen people on both sides of the argument voiced their concerns during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“General Lee is an American hero,” one man said.

The school is located on Columbus Drive in a minority neighborhood. The students there are predominately black and that’s partially why some people feel the name is inappropriate.

“During the time when that name was erected on that school, we had no choice, but now we do,” said Bishop Michelle B. Patty.

A supporter of Lee wore a confederate uniform at the meeting, while others spoke to uphold the general’s name.

“Name new schools for new people, I have no problem with that. Just don’t destroy the past and destroy our understanding of history with it,” David MccAllister said.

Shamburger is a vocal supporter of changing the name. She proposed the effort during the meeting.

“When does this community’s voice matter? If we’re good enough for FTE, we’re good enough for property taxes, then we’re good enough to have a school that represents us. Not only us, but all of us, the whole entire district,” Shamburger said.

District leaders will present board members with official procedures on how to move forward, then they will begin the 18-month process of compiling public input.

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