SF to move forward with changing school names with 'ties to racism,' 'dishonorable legacies'

Lyanne Melendez Image
Thursday, January 28, 2021
SFUSD can move forward with name changes for 44 schools
The San Francisco Board of Education on Tuesday approved moving forward with the process to rename 44 San Francisco Unified School District schools named after controversial figures.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The names of 44 schools in San Francisco will be eventually dropped and changed. The San Francisco School Board decided on Tuesday night that the people which have schools named after them have "ties to racism" or have "dishonorable legacies."

Junipero Serra Elementary, Washington High School, Dianne Feinstein Elementary, and Lowell High School are among the 44 San Francisco schools whose names are scheduled to be changed. The reason has sparked a lot of controversy.

RELATED: San Francisco Unified identifies 44 schools eligible to be renamed

"We're committed to undoing symbols of racism and White supremacy culture so again we're uplifting these opportunities to see names we can be excited about," explained San Francisco School Board President, Gabriela Lopez.

Changing these names was in response to what happened in 2017 more than 2,800 miles from San Francisco. White nationalists rallied in Charlottesville, Virginia against removing a statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Following that violent protest, the San Francisco school board then decided to target those school names, they say, have ties to racism or even with a shady legacy.

VIDEO: Christopher Columbus statue vandalized near Coit Tower San Francisco

The Christopher Columbus statue near Coit Tower was vandalized. Red paint covered the face of the controversial colonist, while the base of the statue had graffiti that read "Destroy all monuments of genocide and kill all colonizers."

"It's anger and vitriol as oppose to facts and truth whether it's good history or bad history," expressed Lope Yap, Jr. the Vice President of the Washington High School Alumni Association. Washington High is also on the list. Yap is against removing a controversial mural located in the school's lobby which shows the history of America depicting slavery and a murdered Native American.

"This is a board that doesn't actively use education or a teaching moment regarding history," he added.

Another school name which will be changed is Dianne Feinstein Elementary which opened in 2006.

RELATED: Mayor Breed blasts efforts for SF school name changes

Here's why. In 1984 a protester by the name of Richard Bradley climbed a flag pole to take down the Confederate Flag. It was one of 18 flags displayed outside San Francisco's Civic Center since 1964 and used to symbolize the stages of American History.

After Bradley took the flag down, then Mayor Feinstein ordered the flag to be put up again.

It was Doris Ward, the first African American Board President who convinced Feinstein to permanently remove the flag. Feinstein did.

"I do not think we should make snap prejudicial judgements without the facts," said Reverend Amos Brown, the President of the San Francisco Chapter of the NAACP and someone who has known Senator Feinstein for more than 40 years.

"She appointed me to the City College School Board. She and her husband Richard Blum established the first sister-city on the continent of Africa," added Rev. Brown.

Feinstein is also the city's first female mayor and senator for California along with then Senator Barbara Boxer.

Feinstein's office did not reply to our request for an interview or statement.

The school board arrived at this decision after a special committee comprised of educators, students and former school board members came up with a list of people they believe supported oppression, slavery and were therefore racists. It's believed that no historians were asked to weigh in.

It will be up to the local school communities to begin renaming their schools.