East Wenatchee's Robert E. Lee Elementary Considers Name Change

Aug 24, 2017

There are more than 60 schools in the U.S. with names tied to the Confederate South. One school, Robert E. Lee Elementary, is right here in the Northwest.

This isn’t the first time the Eastmont School District has been under fire to change the name. After the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting by a white supremacist, the school board considered changing the name—but chose to keep it.

Robert E. Lee Elementary looks like any other school. Surrounded by the foothills of the Central Washington Cascades, it has an American flag outside and a colorful jungle gym for its 500 students.

The school was named after Lee in 1955, but no one really knows why. Some believe the name came from Dust Bowl farmers coming from the southern U.S., but neither the superintendent's office nor the Wenatchee Valley Museum has concrete answers.

What’s true is that the name is causing a stir in the community.

“Just bringing up an issue as simple as ‘we have a school named after a Confederate general’ and that’s a problem, especially for a state up here in the Northwest, the fact that it evokes such strong emotion in people, is evidence that we still have a long way to go,” said Tim Lawless , the father of a student of color who attended Lee Elementary.

Lawless believes the school’s name should change. Lawless and his spouse Katie, approached the board after the Charleston shooting in 2015. At the time, the school board dismissed the issue. This time however, there is more concern as recent events in Charlottesville brought the topic back into the limelight.

On social media, an article on Facebook posted by the The Wenatchee World on the potential name change attracted over 200 comments. The top liked comments were in favor of keeping the name.

At a meeting on August 21, the school board agreed to place the name change proposal on a future agenda.