San Francisco Unified identifies 44 schools eligible to be renamed

Amanda del Castillo Image
Saturday, September 26, 2020
San Francisco Unified identifies 44 schools eligible to be renamed
Many of the schools up for renaming in San Francisco are currently named after historic figures, including George Washington and Dianne Feinstein.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Dozens of San Francisco schools could soon be renamed, according to a San Francisco Unified School District advisory committee.

RELATED: Review underway for San Francisco schools named after presidents

The committee has been reviewing names for months, and they've identified 44 schools that meet re-naming criteria, based on "relevance and appropriateness."

The standards shared by the advisory committee consider the following criteria:

  • Anyone directly involved in the colonization of people
  • Slave owners or participants in enslavement
  • Perpetrators of genocide or slavery
  • Those who exploit workers/people
  • Those who directly oppressed or abused women, children, queer or transgender people
  • Those connected to any human rights or environmental abuses
  • Those who are known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs
  • Many of the schools are named after historic figures, including George Washington and Dianne Feinstein.
  • RELATED: Name change underway at San Anselmo's Sir Francis Drake High School, district says

    The names of presidents and other political and historic figures could soon be purged from SFUSD schools. This includes George Washington, Diane Feinstein, even Abraham Lincoln.

    "If it was someone who had been a Confederate general, and you want to change the name of someone like that, that makes sense," 2005 Lincoln High School graduate, Wilson Kong told ABC7 news. "But Lincoln... really?"

    The advisory committee was launched in 2018, and is responsible for evaluating names that honor historical figures.

    The committee's assessment found President Lincoln wasn't a true abolitionist, landing him on the list for name change consideration.

    On Wednesday, committee members compiled that list of more than 40 schools.

    "I'm thinking about the slaves that Lafayette owned, and I'm thinking about his sentence. I'm thinking about how they would feel right now. Like, if they got to do public comment," one member said during that 2-hour committee meeting.

    During the public comment portion of the evening, one parent pointed out, "I don't think it is the job of this committee to be accommodating peoples' nostalgia for leaders who have done racist things."

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    "If you list every single school on there, at least show the data of the pros and the cons," Kong said after viewing the meeting. "Let other people verify the information so that we can see that visibly."

    Kong questions why there isn't a historian to fact check claims and assessments made by the committee.

    He also wonders what the financial burden might be for the potential 40-plus name changes.

    "Do we have that much money to change the names of every single one of these schools," he asked. "What are the repercussions?"

    Kong said he's hoping the board instead finds ways to acknowledge each figure for both their feats and faults.

    "Why don't we take that as a lesson learned and teach an extra course on civil rights on things that they did back then, in that time period," he questioned. "Peer correct what happened back then, that was uncomfortable, to the students. Because that's when I really learned about the history of America."

    "History is a tricky thing," San Francisco Chronicle Insider and ABC7 News Contributor Phil Matier added. "It's usually seen in a rear view mirror. And in this case, the road that they've decided to go down is going to be a bumpy one when it gets to the Board of Education for the final call."

    Matier first reported on the subject in July.

    A meeting about name suggestions will be held in November.

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