George Washington owned slaves. Abraham Lincoln backed policies that harmed Native American tribes. And former mayor Dianne Feinstein has been accused of ordering a Confederate flag to be replaced after it was torn down.
Their names and others will now be stripped from 44 San Francisco schools following a 6-1 vote Tuesday by district leaders, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“It’s a message to our families, our students and our community,” said board member Mark Sanchez, according to the publication. “It’s not just symbolic. It’s a moral message.”
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Parents and teachers at each school will have until April to propose new names, which must be approved by the board, Courthouse News reported. Renaming the schools is expected to cost $440,000.
School names honoring Paul Revere, Francis Scott Key, Thomas Jefferson, Herbert Hoover, Father Junipero Serra and Robert Louis Stevenson are among those to be changed, according to a district list.
Other names to be changed include those of conquistadors who explored California and notable San Francisco residents, including a former superintendent, who held racist views.
The board also voted to rename Roosevelt Middle School despite confusion over whether it was originally named for Theodore or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Fox News reported.
A committee had studied the proposed name changes for two years before the decision was made, a presentation to the board says.
The presentation says involvement in colonization, slavery, genocide, exploitation of workers, oppression, racism and other human rights abuses are reasons to remove someone’s name from a school.
Some of the criteria for possible replacement names including a grounding in social or economic justice, local rather than national figures, and those who bring “joy and healing to the world.”
The proposed name changes generated national commentary, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed criticized the proposals in October, KGO reported.
“The fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our city, not the name of a school,” Breed said, according to the station.
Former President Donald Trump posted to Twitter about the proposal in December, calling it “so ridiculous and unfair,” The Hill reported.
Critics of the name changes argued that historical figures should be judged in context of all their efforts, not dismissed for individual questionable actions, Courthouse News reported. They also accused the panel of using selective sources and Wikipedia to research names rather than consulting historians, Fox News reported.
“I must admit there are reasons to support this resolution, but I can’t,” resident Jean Barish said, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. “These are not decisions that should be made in haste.”
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