Lanier M.S. parents call school name change wrong, vow fight

- Houston ISD's 87 year old Sidney Lanier Middle School is on the brink of an identity crisis.

Turns out, there's an objectionable blemish on the life resume of the renowned Southern poet.

At the age of 19, Sidney Lanier, like more than a million other Southerners, enlisted as a private in the Confederate army.

"We voted if they were in the Confederacy, if they served in the Confederate army, their name should not be on a public building," said Jolanda Jones one of five HISD Trustees who voted in favor of a slate of forced name changes.

But a deeply committed group of Lanier parents say Jones and the trustees who voted with her cast a corrective net that was far to wide and overtly unjust to a fitting role model.

"He was very different. He was not a Confederate leader he did what all able bodied men did in the North or South which was defend where you are living, join the cause," said Chrysi Polydoros, a Lanier M.S. parent.

Sidney Lanier, they say, paled in military and political comparison to others like Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson.

What's more, they contend the poet and scholar never owned a slave, celebrated the end of human bondage and used his literary gift to promote peace, healing and reconciliation at war's end.

"He says, 'Today we are here for love, not hate. Today we are here for togetherness' and his whole cause was to have a more beautiful union. That's what he stood for. It's just such a misjustice what they've done to this person," said Adrienne Murry, a Lanier alumni and parent.

That's why they are hoping to convince the closely split school board to re-examine the mandated name change and remove Lanier from the list of eight schools facing name changes.

Trustee Jones says the decision to withdraw honor and hold accountable those who backed slavery is non-negotiable.

"You don't respect that my people were enslaved and you think I should pay taxes to support a school named after a Confederate soldier. Shame on you!", said Jones who also attended Lanier.

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