LONG BEACH (CBSLA.com) — There are calls Monday night to rename an elementary school in Long Beach named after a Confederate general.
Concerned citizens filled a school board hearing to discuss the possible renaming of Robert E. Lee Elementary School on Temple Avenue.
Those who want the name change said that to keep the school’s name is insensitive to the diverse student population.
“This person who their school’s named for and they’re supposed to be proud of with respect to their school fought for slavery,” said one attendee during the meeting.
Speaker after speaker took the microphone, many saying Civil War General Robert E. Lee’s work for the Confederacy tied him to the support of slavery.
But Tom Chumley doesn’t see it that way.
“He made the wrong choice,” Chumley said. “My southern ancestors went north to fight for the union. They made the right choice.”
Chumley says it’s unfair to characterize Lee as a racist and traitor.
“If they want to rename the school, fine, but do it for the right reason,” he said. “Don’t do it because of misconceptions and the ignorance of our history.”
Most of the speakers, who support the name change, want the school’s name to be changed to Jenny Oropeza Elementary School after the late California State Senator, who had strong ties to Long Beach.
“To name a school after a Latina leader, especially as fierce as she was, and so very close to her community as she was, it makes sense to me,” said Lena Gonzalez.
The name Harper Lee Elementary School was also suggested. Members of the local Cambodian community also suggested using a Cambodian leader’s name.
No decisions were made by the Long Beach Unified School District.