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Tacoma considers renaming Jason Lee Middle School to honor community’s history

The Tacoma school board is considering changing the name of Jason Lee Middle School to honor the diverse history of the Hilltop neighborhood.

TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma Public Schools Board is considering renaming Jason Lee Middle School after community members raised concerns about Lee’s harmful impact on Native Americans.

Board members met Thursday for a study session on renaming the city’s oldest middle school, which sits on ancestral Puyallup Tribal land.

Lee was a missionary who created Indian Boarding Schools, which were designed to strip Native American children of their language and culture.

The school district sent a survey to staff, students, alumni and community members in October and November seeking feedback on a new name for the school. An overwhelming majority said they wanted to change the name, according to the district’s renaming proposal.

RELATED: Washington state proposal to ban Native American school mascots heads to House vote

Right now, Hilltop Heritage Middle School is the front runner with 45.4% of respondents saying that was their first choice.

"The Hilltop community has a rich and unique history that speaks to the diversity and inclusiveness of people of various backgrounds," said Jason Lee Interim Principal Michael Knuckles.

The second most popular option was the Puyallup Tribe’s recommendation to call the school šəqalič Middle School (pronounced shuh-kah-leech), which is the Lushootseed word for “up on top.”

Other options were Harold Moss Middle School, which honors Tacoma’s first Black mayor, and šəqalič Hilltop Heritage Middle School.

Earlier this month, the district voted to change the name of Woodrow Wilson High School to Dolores Silas High School. Silas was the first Black woman to serve on the Tacoma City Council.

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