Burke High graduate petitions for school name change amid BLM movement

Published: Jun. 17, 2020 at 3:46 PM CDT
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As thousands protest against social injustice across the country, a recent Burke High School graduate wants to change the name of her former school.

She says she’s sure there will be many alumni who will want their school name to remain the same, but she’s starting a petition to change it.

Recent Burke High School graduate Grace Loux has started her own protest by organizing a petition campaign to rename that school. Loux said after reading an on-line article on Harry A. Burke, she thought a name change was necessary.

“Harry A. Burke had multiple accounts of saying things like, 'I never want a black educator,' 'I would never want black people in a position of power, where white children would be educated,' ” she said.

The high school was dedicated to Harry A. Burke in November 1967; Burke served as OPS superintendent from 1946 to 1962.

Not only does the high school bear the name of Harry Burke, but the street in front of the school is also named for him.

This isn’t the first time that Burke High School students talked about renaming the school. Just last year, the school’s student newspaper called for the removal of Burke’s name from the school.

Edouardo Zendejas lives in the neighborhood surrounding Burke High and agrees with the idea of changing the name of the school.

“Done a little research about 'what is Burke High School,' — who they named it after," he said. "After doing a little research, I thought, 'I wonder if that name would survive if they actually knew some of the histories.' ”

The Omaha Public School district released a statement on the issue:

"The diversity of our student body, staff and community is our greatest strength. We are currently creating spaces for students to come together and talk, where we will listen to their thoughts on current events and their experiences in our community. Our work, both immediate and long-term is equity-focused to support each student's success."

Right now, Loux said she has close to 400 signatures. The petition suggests officials rename Burke High for

or after Lucinda Gamble, one of the first African American teachers in the school district.

Loux said she plans to gather more and present the petition to the OPS Board of Education.