Robert E. Lee Middle School will soon be College Park Middle School

Orange County School Board votes 7-1 to change controversial name

By Cathleigh Winningham - Producer , Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

COLLEGE PARK, Fla. - After an emotional Orange County School Board meeting Tuesday night, school leaders voted to change the historic name of a middle school that's been around for years.

Robert E. Lee Middle School was named for the Confederate leader in 1956 -- just one year after the Supreme Court's controversial ruling to desegregate schools in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education.

The idea for the name change was first proposed at a meeting on Oct. 15, 2015. Since then, school officials have distributed surveys and researched potential alternative names.

A recent survey of nearly 1,000 parents, students and employees showed that 56 percent are in favor of the name change. It would cost approximately $20,000 to change lettering and signage, the gym floor logo, school athletic uniforms and other items.

On Tuesday night, school board members listened to 13 people weigh in on the controversial topic. Most of them were for the name change.

"Sorry, I was trying not to get emotional, but I can not in good conscious send my African-American child to a school named after a Confederate general," said one mother, right as she took the stand. "It's just unacceptable to me."

"Things are different now," said another mother of a Lee Middle School student. "Now the white students are the minority at Robert E. Lee and every student is taught to have a broader worldview but the rippling effects of segregation are still in the name."

But a few felt the name change would dishonor a war veteran and would rewrite history.

"This is my heritage. This is my history. This is what I grew up with," said a long-time Orlando resident. "Robert E. Lee was a sterling individual. his family was, and Ifeel like it's taking away the history of what I grew up with and it's very upsetting to me."

After listening to about an hour of public comments, the board took a vote. All but one member was in favor of changing Robert E. Lee Middle School to College Park Middle School.

"Today, I'm going to represent my constituents," said District 7 School Board member Christine Moore. "They want to stay with Lee. They felt that it was rewriting history."

"Words matter, and I believe a name matters immensely, and Ibelieve that if a name is offensive, it's incumbent of us to change that," said School Board Chairman Bill Sublett, who voted in favor of the name change.

Robert E. Lee Middle School's mascot is a Rebel. News 6 asked if the mascot would change, too. School officials said it's too soon to tell.

It's also too soon to say when the name change will happen.

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