San Francisco scuttles school renaming plan
Controversy and pandemic disruptions plagued the committee
Last week, after a public battering over bad timing and poor research, San Francisco’s school board suspended its effort to rename schools. While putting one controversy on hold, the district remains embroiled in others.
The renaming committee, formed in 2018, voted in January to replace 44 school names it said reflected racism and other injustices. That decision quickly came under fire for targeting respected historical figures, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and national anthem writer Francis Scott Key. Abraham Lincoln made the list for his role in executing Native American men. The committee based hasty votes on weak research and falsely accused Paul Revere of trying to colonize the Penobscot people. Attorney Paul Scott sued the board in March, arguing it violated open meeting laws and skipped community input while making its decisions.
Parents and elected officials also blasted the board for spending time on renaming while leaving students stuck in online school. The city sued its own school district to pressure it to reopen, and parents organized to recall board members.
In February, board President Gabriela López promised renaming would wait until all children returned in-person and that the board would work with historians next time around. Last week’s vote made the pause official to fend off further lawsuits.
“I’m glad they’ve come to their senses—after lawsuits, and public pressure,” said Seeyew Mo, head of a San Francisco group that opposed the renaming. “It feels like truth won this time.”
But San Francisco’s board isn’t through with controversy. It voted March 25 to boot member Alison Collins from her role as vice president over her 2016 tweets accusing Asian Americans of “white supremacist” thinking. Collins ignored calls to step down and sued the district and other board members, arguing the decision to take away her titles violated her free speech rights. And the city’s selective Lowell High School has entered a fierce debate over racial equity in admissions policies.
For the city’s exasperated parents and students, this week offered a glimmer of relief. Though the district doesn’t plan to bring all students back until the fall, 33 preschools and elementary schools reopened Monday. A few middle and high school students will return later this month. “Trapped inside a three-bedroom apartment with four kids for a year, it does feel like a light at the end of the tunnel,” parent Andy Martone told KQED-TV.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to support WORLD's brand of Biblically sound journalism, click here.