The Alabama Memorial Preservation Act of 2017, signed into law last month by governor Kay Ivey, complicates the process of changing the names of school facilities dedicated to a person, group, event, movement or military service — a move that complicates potential naming rights deals and facility projects.
The law, sponsored by representative Gerald Allen, R-Tuscaloosa, was promoted as a means to protect the state’s history at time when some southern cities were involved in removing prominent signs of the confederacy.
In a public statement, the Southern Poverty Law Center called out the law for protecting monuments that celebrate “white supremacy and a time in which an entire race was enslaved and oppressed,” according to Decatur Daily.
While the law does serve to protect confederate monuments, it also restricts the rights of local governments to change the names of streets or school buildings that have existed on public land for more than 20 years.
This becomes a problem when school districts hope to renovate, expand or repurpose aging facilities, as it ties the name to the physical building rather than to the purpose of the building. This opens schools up to the possibility of being stuck with two buildings of the same name.
In order to obtain a waiver to change the name of a building that falls within the parameters of the law, a school would have to petition an 11-person committee, providing a school board resolution and a documented facility history along with commentary and other facts.
Athens City Superintendent Trey Holladay told Decatur Daily that many school officials opposed the bill because it inhibits the dissolution of school facilities that have aged past usefulness. “I want to save historical buildings,” he said, “but we need buildings for educational reasons.”