Activists visit homes to advocate school name change as opponents rally at Lee High

Voting for a possible name change for Robert E. Lee High School starts on April 26th. On Saturday, community activists were spreading the word on why they think the school's name should be changed.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the window to vote on a possible name change for Robert E. Lee High School nears, community activists were out Saturday spreading the word to people in the Riverside and Avondale area on why they believe the school’s name should be changed.

There were also some out voicing their concerns at their alma mater Saturday, saying they want the school’s name to stay the same and that it should be up to alumni, not the community, to make the call.

Community activist groups, led by Ben Frazier’s Northside Coalition of Jacksonville, went to hundreds of homes near Lee High School on Saturday.

“We’re going to touch 700 households in the Avondale-Riverside area,” Frazier said of Saturday’s efforts. “We think it’s time for this place to be called Riverside High School.”

Frazier said 70% of the high school students are Black, and they shouldn’t have to go to a school named after a Confederate general.

Lee High School’s School Advisory Council agreed on four potential alternative names for Lee High School for the community to vote on a few weeks ago. There will also be an option to retain the school’s current name.

LINK: Strategic planning school name change tracker

Those names that will appear on the community’s ballot are:

  • Avondale High School
  • Riverside High School
  • School #33
  • Legacy High School
  • Robert E. Lee High School

While people canvassed homes in the Riverside and Avondale area, others who want the name to stay the same gathered outside of the high school with signs.

“These people are trying to force their beliefs on us,” Lee High alumna Debra Harris said. “They never went to this school.”

One man who went to Lee High School said he believes the money that it would cost to rename the school -- about $287,000 according to a report from Duval County Public Schools -- should be spent on something other than changing a name.

“This school needs $300,000 to redo their field,” Norman Abraham said. “This field that the Generals play on needs redoing.”

People eligible to vote will be able to do so during two voting windows:

  • April 26 to April 30, between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • May 3 to May 7, between 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Here is a list of who can vote:

  • Students
  • Duval Schools faculty and staff
  • School Advisory Council
  • Parent Teacher Association or Parent Teacher Student Association members
  • Community members within the school’s attendance zone, and former attendance zone for current Magnet schools
  • Alumni of the school, regardless of graduation status

The results of the voting will be submitted to the superintendent in mid-May. The school superintendent will make a final recommendation on any name changes to the school board, which will have the final say.

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.