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HISD sued over school name changes

Not a surprise.

Nine members of the local community on Thursday sued Houston’s public school district, alleging the district violated numerous laws and their own regulations when recently changing the names of eight schools.

“We’ve been arguing as parents and taxpayers for months that the vote was illegal, politically driven, and taking these historic buildings was against the law,” said public relations consultant Wayne Dolcefino, who is a spokesman for the plaintiffs in the case.

The lawsuit asks the Harris County District Court to prohibit HISD’s board from spending millions of taxpayer dollars on renaming the eight schools. HISD voted to change the names of these schools in May because each school was named for a Confederate leader.


Dolcefino said the school board violated the Texas Open Meetings act and the Monument act, among other regulations. The plaintiffs on Tuesday issued a 24-hour demand to HISD, asking the board to rescind its vote to rename the schools. HISD didn’t respond, he said.

See here for the background. The Press fills in some details.

Their suit, filed in Harris County, seeks an injunction to block HISD from using public funds to rename the schools and also seeks to protect the schools as monuments, Wayne Dolcefino, the plaintiffs’ spokesman, said. The suit claims HISD violated open meetings laws when deliberating and voting on the changes. Schools affected include Robert E. Lee High School (to become Margaret Long Wisdom High School), Stonewall Jackson Middle School (to become Yolanda Black Navarro Middle School of Excellence) and John H. Reagan High School (to become Heights High School), among others. Sidney Lanier Middle School wouldn’t even need many changes: It would become Bob Lanier, named for the former Houston mayor.

Still, parents aren’t happy.

β€œIt is a sad day when taxpayers and parents have to file a lawsuit to make the school district honor their duty as public servants,” Dolcefino said. “HISD will now waste more taxpayer money to defend their arrogance.”

HISD spokeswoman Lila Hollin said that the district estimates the changes will cost no more than $2 million β€” money that will be spent on things like new signage, band uniforms and sports jerseys.

But that’s $2 million too much in the eyes of some parents whose kids will have access to fewer resources thanks to large budget cuts the district just approved this month. Facing a $95 million shortfall, the board decided to cut its teacher bonus program and also squash remaining portions of its longstanding tutoring program, Apollo. Overall, the district will spend $179 less per student.

So even in the name of diversity, perhaps buying a lot of new signs and sports jerseys is bad timing, for now.

Perhaps, though one could certainly argue that this change was long overdue, and that if a previous Board had tackled the issue as it should have, we wouldn’t be having this fight now. I have no opinion on the merits of the suit, I’ll just say again that having a school named after you is a privilege and not a right. Whatever happens with this lawsuit, I feel confident that this controversy will fade over time.

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I wondered what Wayne was up to after leaving CH13.

  2. Dear Wayne,
    Is this all about a few shekels? Would you be complaining and throwing a tantrum if we were talking about Adolph Hitler High School? I’m sure the slaves would question the appropriateness of naming public schools after those who fought for continued slavery. Do we all have to give the southern generals a tip of our hat in perpetuity? You can save the taxpayers some legal fees by dropping your silly lawsuit.

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    @ [email protected]:

    If $ 2M is “a few Shekels” to you, I’d like to request that you either adopt me, or think about me when crafting your will.

    This is no different from New Orleans dropping big money to remove statues from public grounds that have been there for generations.

    Neither Houston nor New Orleans are so flush with cash that they can afford to do these things, yet NO would rather tear down statues than fix roads, and HISD would rather change names than buy textbooks, or pay for tutoring for struggling kids.

    The concept of fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer is certainly missing from the leaders at HISD.

  4. OK, no problem. I’ll put you down as a proponent of Adolph Hitler High. Morality be damned.