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San Francisco Mayor London Breed slammed the city’s school district for the “offensive” timing of a plan to change school names considered to be racist.
The California Democrat issued a statement calling on the San Francisco Unified School District to focus on safely reopening schools for the area’s children rather than target those with names somehow linked to racism and “colonization.” More than one-third of San Francisco’s 125 schools made the list, including those named after Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
A decision on changing the names of 44 schools in San Francisco will reportedly be announced by December 18 as the school district’s School Names Advisory Committee takes the matter into consideration, Forbes reported. The committee was established in 2018 to review school names and the recent announcement of the schools that made the list for offensive names sparked major backlash.
“Look, I believe in equity. It’s at the forefront of my administration and we’ve made historic investments to address the systemic racism confronting our city,” Breed said in a statement slamming the school district for its priorities. “But the fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our City, not the name of a school.”
“Today I issued a statement on the need for our School District to focus on reopening our public schools, not renaming them. To address inequities, we need to get our kids back in the classroom,” Breed tweeted along with her statement which was retweeted with an agreement from California state Sen. Scott Wiener, also a Democrat.
I agree with Mayor @LondonBreed
Renaming a big swath of SF schools (not to mention the Lowell fiasco) during a pandemic & budget collapse — when kids are suffering with remote learning — isn’t the right focus.
Focus 1, 2 & 3 need to be how to get our kids back to school safely. https://t.co/voDmL1Xq6H
— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) October 16, 2020
The committee making the name change recommendations used several criteria to make the final decision, including schools named for “anyone directly involved in the colonization of people,” any named for “slave owners or participants in enslavement,” any “perpetuators of genocide,” or “those who exploit workers/people,” as well as any named for “those who directly oppressed or abused women, children, queer or transgender people.”
Schools named for “those connected to any human rights or environmental abuses,” or “those who are known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs” were also considered.
The committee recommended that the new names for the targeted schools be “grounded in social & economic justice,” as well as bring “joy and healing to the world,” among other criteria.
Apparently the names of U.S. presidents, including Washington, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, and even Paul Revere and California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, did not meet the committee’s criteria as their namesake schools were all on the list of recommended name changes.
According to Forbes:
The committee included Dianne Feinstein Elementary School because of the claim she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag as mayor in 1984— though according to Snopes, it’s unclear whether she personally made the decision and a day later she ordered the flag to be replaced with one honoring Union soldiers.
“We need an inclusive process that will allow all communities to be heard, use professional historians applying verifiable data, issue a written report why a school name might be changed, so the community can make a considered decision,” five high school alumni associations said in criticism of the committee’s assessment made without consulting professional historians, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The school board will likely vote on any name changes in early 2021 but, in the meantime, potential new names are to be submitted by Dec. 18.
“Any final decision to change school names rests with the elected members of the Board of Education. As part of this process, the committee has requested input from schools by the end of this semester. Schools are not required or mandated to participate in this process,” the SFUSD said in a statement.
“This is a process being led by an advisory committee. The district appreciates that the advisory committee’s timing may be difficult for schools, and has conveyed concerns to the advisory committee regarding the challenges of making recommendations at this time given that we are in distance learning due to the pandemic,” the District added.
The district’s plan to move ahead despite the ongoing pandemic and the fact that many schools are not set to reopen their buildings until January has angered many parents and leaders.
“The School District and the Board of Education need to do what needs to be done to get our kids back in school,” San Francisco’s mayor said in her blistering statement.
“And now, in the midst of this once in a century challenge, to hear that the District is focusing energy and resources on renaming schools — schools that they haven’t even opened — is offensive,” Breed said.
“It’s offensive to parents who are juggling their children’s daily at-home learning schedules with doing their own jobs and maintaining their sanity. 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,” she added. “It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends.”