The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education (SFUSD) has approved the renaming of 44 schools named after historical figures in a 6-1 resolution. Schools named after George Washington, Junipero Serra, Abraham Lincoln, and even naturalist John Muir, Senator Robert F. Stockton, and current US Senator Dianne Feinstein among other historical figures will be renamed.
According to the school board, these schools will be renamed because of what the figures after which they are named did to people in robbing them of their life, liberty, and happiness. The board specifically noted that the schools must be renamed because the historical figures “significantly diminished the opportunities of those among us to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
As if that is not enough, many of the historical figures were accused of engaging in the “subjugation and enslavement of human beings,” and also “oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress, or whose actions led to genocide.” Specifically, Abraham Lincoln was said to maltreat Native Americans so much and Feinstein was said to have flown the Confederate flag over a city property when she was mayor of San Francisco in the 1980s.
The SFUSD is urging members of the public to suggest names that could be used to replace the impacted schools on the board’s website. The general public could use a form on the board’s website for this purpose. An individual in San Francisco suggested retaining the name of Roosevelt Middle School; this is not in honor of the two former Roosevelt presidents, but in honor of Teddy Roosevelt’s niece and Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt.
The plan to change the names of identified schools with names of historical figures started in 2018 and got the final endorsement from the board earlier this week. The board will review all the newly suggested school names up till April 19 before making a final recommendation. It is estimated that renaming the 44 schools could cost the board as much as $1 million.
As can be expected, a few persons do not support renaming the schools for whatever reasons. A local resident, Jean Barish, said the board may be justified in renaming the schools, but that this is not a decision to be made in haste. “I must admit there are reasons to support this resolution, but I can’t,” he said. “These are not decisions that should be made in haste.”
The city’s African American mayor, London Breed, also negate the proposed move, saying the board should instead focus their attention on reopening schools for in-person attendance and eliminating COVID-19 threats.
“It’s offensive to me as someone who went to our public schools, who loves our public schools, and who knows how those years in the classroom are what lifted me out of poverty and into college,” Breed said. “It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends.”