San Francisco Scraps 44 School Names, Citing Reckoning With Racism

The San Francisco Board of Education voted this week to rename 44 of its colleges named after outstanding figures, in an try to purge the district of homages to what it mentioned had been controversial individuals with ties to racism, sexism or slavery.

Schools named for historic figures, together with Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, in addition to present ones, like Senator Dianne Feinstein, are set to be renamed.

Following the unrest in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, which led to the killing of a protester by a white supremacist, the board moved in 2018 to determine a fee to judge renaming colleges to “condemn any symbols of white supremacy and racism,” mentioned Gabriela López, the board president.

The fee had determined that colleges named after figures who match the next standards could be renamed: “engaged in the subjugation and enslavement of human beings; or who oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress; or whose actions led to genocide; or who otherwise significantly diminished the opportunities of those amongst us to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The faculty board’s determination — which handed on a 6-to-1 vote on Tuesday — to rename 44 of the district’s 121 colleges was criticized by some as inappropriate amid the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty over when college students will have the ability to return to school rooms.

Yukina Grady, a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School who’s half-white and half-Japanese, mentioned she was “somewhere in the middle” relating to the identify change, including that there was “a lot more that schools could and should be focusing on” in coping with racism than merely renaming colleges.

“This is a great discussion to be had,” she mentioned, however “with everything going on with Covid, I wonder if we should be focusing on other things.”

That was echoed by the town’s mayor, London Breed, who mentioned in a statement: “What I cannot understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then.”

“Our families are frustrated about a lack of a plan, and they are especially frustrated with the fact that the discussion of these plans weren’t even on the agenda for last night’s School Board meeting,” she mentioned.

Ms. López disputed that, saying in a cellphone interview that reopening plans had been mentioned at every meeting and that the board may fight each racism and the pandemic on the similar time. The mayor’s response, she mentioned, is “not helping us get to reopening.”

There had been additionally considerations about the price of renaming the faculties. Ms. López mentioned the board had thought-about that and had estimated that it might value $10,000 per faculty.

“I wonder if there’s better use for that money,” Ms. Grady mentioned.

A vote by the college board in 2019 to cover, however not destroy, early Twentieth-century murals that some thought-about offensive to Black individuals and Native Americans additionally confronted criticism.

Community members at Tuesday’s board meeting, which was held by videoconference, had been equally break up on their ideas concerning the determination. One individual, who recognized herself as Julie, mentioned, “The heroes that we choose to name our schools after are opportunities for our children to see who’s important to us.”

The fee, whose members embrace lecturers, college students, former board members and others locally, discovered that George Washington — a slaveholder for whom a San Francisco highschool is called — match its standards for renaming.

Lincoln, who had a highschool within the metropolis named for him and in addition made the record, has been criticized for his response to the so-called Minnesota Uprising, during which greater than 300 Native Americans were sentenced to death by a army courtroom after being accused of attacking white settlers in 1862. Lincoln mentioned he discovered an absence of proof in many of the circumstances and diminished the variety of condemned to 38, who had been hanged in what was considered the most important mass execution in U.S. historical past.

The record of faculties set to be renamed additionally contains lesser-known figures, resembling James Denman, a former superintendent of the college district who denied Chinese college students an training.

An elementary faculty within the metropolis named after Ms. Feinstein, a Democrat and (*44*)’s senior senator, can be set to get a brand new identify. Ms. Feinstein was on the record as a result of a Confederate flag that was vandalized in entrance of City Hall was changed whereas she was mayor of San Francisco.

The flag was “part of a design installed years before” she turned mayor, and the flag was changed “by the parks and recreation department on its own accord,” mentioned Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for Ms. Feinstein.

Mr. Mentzer mentioned that after the flag was changed, Ms. Feinstein consulted metropolis officers earlier than ordering it to get replaced with a Union flag. Ms. Feinstein had no remark relating to the identify change, he mentioned.

Ms. López, the board’s president, mentioned that the fee had thought-about the complete episode relating to the flag, however that “unfortunately it met the criteria.”

A letter this month from mother and father of pupils at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School voiced disapproval of renaming the college, writing that Ms. Feinstein had “pioneered and blazed a trail for women’s rights and equality in government,” and pointed to laws she had written supporting immigrants and the L.G.B.T.Q. group.

Ms. Grady, the highschool senior, mentioned she was unaware of Lincoln’s actions in Minnesota. She mentioned none of her classmates had been “against the idea of addressing racist issues.”

And although “these people are just as human as we are,” she mentioned, “we shouldn’t put them on a pedestal.”

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