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Austin School Board Votes To Change Lanier High School's Name To Juan Navarro High School

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees voted to rename Sidney Lanier High School Monday night. The school will now be called Juan Navarro High School.

The renaming marks the end of the district's effort to rename properties honoring Confederate figures, which started in earnest last February.

Navarro, a 2007 Lanier graduate, was a U.S. Army officer who was killed in Afghanistan in 2012. The board says the formal name-change will go forward after a background check on Navarro and a review of the board's policies, to make sure it follows district criteria.

The North Austin school was initially named for Lanier, who served as a private in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. It's the fourth AISD school to receive a new name, after the board voted last February to rename its buildings memorializing Confederate figures. 

Trustee Ann Teich, who represents Lanier, has been vocal against the name change and resisted the board's vote, arguing there's a high cost to rename schools. The school district has said changing names will cost around $70,000.

Teich also pointed out that other AISD schools with namesakes who have been slaveowners or who have been linked to slavery — including  Austin, Travis, Bowie and Crockett high schools — haven't faced the same level of public scrutiny. 

At the meeting Monday night, Teich tried to change the name of the high school to Lanier High School — dropping Sidney from the official name — but that motion failed. Teich then proposed Juan Navarro High School, which the board approved.

Manuel Munoz grew up in the Rundberg area with Navarro, and has been advocating to the board for months to consider his friend as a possible namesake. He said to see a member of the U.S. Army rather than a Confederate soldier on a school building is significant.

“The names ... they didn’t represent the community the way they should,” Munoz said. “And so finally to see one of our own have their name up on the building is nice. We’ll be able to remember his history. People will know that even though grow up in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood that it is possible to persevere.”

Some on the board and in the community expressed concerns that students are never given a chance to understand the racist history of schools being named for Confederate figures. 

Trustee Arati Singh made sure to address that when she voted for the name change.

“We cannot change the name and think we have achieved equity or solved racism,” she said. “The lack of [an] AP science class at Lanier, the achievement gaps, despite teachers working their tails off, and the leadership transitions are more important than name changes.”

The board voted last December to rename Fulmore Middle School to Sarah Beth Lively Middle School. The board voted the month before to rename the Allan Center after Anita Coy.  Last month, the board voted to change the name of Reagan High School to Northeast High School

This story has been updated.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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