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Growing controversy over name of Lee County's newest high school

Posted at 7:55 AM, Oct 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-23 07:55:02-04

GATEWAY, Fla – Controversy continues over what to name Lee County's newest high school.
At a school board meeting Tuesday, Gateway community members sounded off saying they've been labeled as racist all because of the name they support.

Nearly a dozen neighbors voiced those concerns during a heated public comment session.
They support naming the new school which will sit at SR 82 and Griffin Drive Gateway High School. There’s also been a push to name the school after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as others that would be reflective of the growing racial makeup of the students who will attend it. It’s led to heated discussion on both sides with the people of Gateway saying they shouldn't be labeled as racist because of the name they support.

"We were all recently labeled whiny, racist cheats by members of this elected body, one of your grotesquely unqualified committee members and the media," said John Heck who lives in Gateway.

“I'm disappointed that I and other residents of Gateway have been openly labeled a racist by those who are supposed to be community leaders for having a different opinion than some board leaders,” said Johnathan Heck.

The school board followed up comments like these saying it's an implication the board won't stand for. They noted that in naming it, there should be some consideration for *all of the students the school will serve in zone three, saying it will be kids from several areas, not just Gateway.

The board was careful to point out again that it was a committee, comprised of community members as well, who brought these names like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School to the board.

After the most recent community survey showed huge support for naming the school Gateway High School, people there feel their opinions are being ignored as well as spun out of proportion. It created tense moments between those neighbors and school board members including Lee County School Board Chair Gwynetta Gittens.

"The implications that we didn't want the community involvement and that we were trying to name the school choose Martin Luther King because I am black. It's like 'where are you getting this?'" said Gittens.

The board will officially decide on the school's name at its Nov. 5 meeting. But first, over the next few days says it will open a survey with the top four final names, as well as a no preference option, up to 8th graders and again to the community.