JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – School officials at Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville removed the former Confederate general’s name from a school marquee after vandals marred the sign on Friday.
A witness told police she was walking her dog when she saw two men crouched near the sign on Friday night. When they ran off, she told police she found several letters pried off the sign and the word “racists” spraypainted on the glass that protects the message board, WJAX reports.
When police responded, the only letters remaining on the sign were “Rob” on one side, and “Rob E.” on the other. Some other letters were found stacked on the top of the sign, but others are missing. The spray paint was cleared by the time police responded. The incident report says a church that meets at the school had cleaned that off.
The witness told police she didn’t get a very good look at the suspects because it was dark, and there was no camera on the sign or usable video footage from the incident, police told the news site.
She described the suspects as young men, one about 5-foot, 6-inches tall and the other roughly 5-foot, 8-inches, both wearing long pants and sweat shirts.
Jacksonville County Sheriff’s deputies took some of the letters as evidence.
Duval County Public Schools “temporarily” removed the remaining letters, WJAX reports.
— Jenna Bourne (@jennaANjax) August 24, 2017
The vandalism follows a deadly clash at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12 between white nationalists and anti-fascists that’s reignited efforts to purge all things related to the Confederacy from public life.
And Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School isn’t the only one dealing with the fallout.
Schools with the same name in Texas and Alabama are facing mounting pressure to find a new name, as are schools named after Lee in Virginia, California and other states.
And while many school officials are complying with calls to scrub southern history from schools, others are resisting the trend.
School officials in several districts closest to the Charlottesville violence told WTVR there’s currently no plans in the works to erase ties to the Confederacy.
In the Richmond district, officials wrote in a statement that planning to talk about the issue in regards to J.E.B. Stuart Elementary, which is named after native Virginian and Confederate Army Gen. James Stewart, but have no concrete plans to rename the school.
“In light the (sic) recent news concerning confederate monuments and symbols, we are planning to have discussions about this matter however no decisions have been made at this time,” the statement read.
Henrico Public Schools contends school officials have more important things to worry about than changing the names of Seven Pines Elementary (a reference to the Battle of Seven Pines) or Douglas S. Freeman High School’s Rebel mascot.
Freeman was a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer from Lynchburg who served under Robert E. Lee and later detailed the lives of both Robert E. Lee and George Washington.
“Certainly we’re following the tragedies and related issues that are unfolding close to home and beyond. At this particular time we believe our school communities expect us to remain focused on a smooth and successful start to the school year. And that’s what we want, too,” Henrico Public Schools wrote in a statement to WTVR.
“We want our students to get to school safely and on time. We want students to have nutritious choices for breakfast and lunch. And we want students and their families to begin forming meaningful relationships with teachers and school staff as the academic year gets underway. To do all this takes a tremendous amount of planning, teamwork, and focus.”
It was a similar story in Hanover County, home of the Stonewall Jackson Middle School Rebels and the Lee-Davis High School Confederates.
“Although we are not aware of any broad discussions or movements within the community to change the names of the schools, our board members have received a very limited number of thoughtful responses concerning this matter,” Hanover officials wrote. “As always, we will continue to be open to and carefully consider any thoughts, comments, or concerns we receive from the community.”