Public records released: Tyler ISD High School names suggested by the community

Tonight, board members are discussing a proposed change to the district's naming policy that...
Tonight, board members are discussing a proposed change to the district's naming policy that was presented by Superintendent Marty Crawford. This is the second reading of the proposal, as required by law.
Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 10:19 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An open records request made by KLTV 7 news to the Tyler ISD, reveals all of the school name suggestions submitted by the community via the school district’s website. The entire list gives both a glimpse of the public sentiment and the options that the school district narrowed down.

From July 21st – August 3rd, Tyler ISD invited the community to submit names via its website. The school district stated after the submission window had closed, they received a total of 2,193 names.

On August 6, Tyler ISD announced the new names of the city’s two high schools, Tyler Legacy High School (formerly Robert E. Lee High School) and Tyler High School (formerly John Tyler High School). The former school names first drew controversy two years ago. In 2018, Board member Aaron Martinez failed to get a second motion that would have brought the issue of renaming Robert E. Lee High school up for a vote at that time. The matter came up again after the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide unrest and renewed criticism of monuments and institutions named after confederate figures. On Thursday July 16th, the board voted unanimously, 7-0, to take action in changing the names. It was at that meeting that Superintendent Marty Crawford asked that schools not be named after people in the future. The list of names suggested by the public shows many either were not aware of, or disregarded, this request. Submissions were made to name the schools after Earl Campbell, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald J. Trump, Martin Luther King, Malcom X and others.

Many submissions stuck to themes commonly seen around Tyler: Tyler Azalea High School and Rose High School, for example. At least 16 names had some form of “Azalea”, while forms of “Rose” and “Rose City” were submitted by the public more than 100 times.

As part of a policy change made on July 20, Tyler ISD’s website stated the campuses may be named after patriotic beliefs, values, and desired qualities and outcomes for students and the community. Submissions show “Freedom High School”, “Liberty High School”, “Patriot High School” and “Independence High School” were all submitted along those guidelines.

Some used the submission process as seemingly a protest statement against the already decided upon name change: “Don’t Change It!!”, “Leave it alone”, and even “Snowflake Tears High School” were submitted as name suggestions. “Robert E. Lee High School” and “Lee” were both submitted. “Tyler Lee” was nominated in different forms eight times. Forms of “John Tyler” were also submitted eight times as well. Some of the submissions contained offensive language and profanity.

At the meeting where the decision was finalized, Tyler ISD administration stated that the submitted names were narrowed down to a few finalists by a focus group, subject to final board approval. Before the final selection, the focus group had chosen two finalists: “Tyler Legacy High School” and “Tyler Liberty High School” to replace the name of Robert E. Lee High School. “Tyler Heritage High School”, “Tyler High School” and “Tyler United High School” were chosen as finalists to replace the name of John Tyler High School. However, “Tyler United High School” does not appear on the list of names publicly submitted through the website at all.

In its August 3rd meeting, the Tyler ISD board determined the cost for changing the names totals to approximately $330,000. The final names selected by the school board came at a 6 to 1 vote for both schools, board member Dr. Patricia Nation being the dissenting vote.

KLTV 7 has placed the entire list of community submitted names sent in using Tyler ISD’s web submission form in the Big Red Box. A warning the list is not censored or redacted and contains offensive language and profanity.

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