San Francisco’s school board surprisingly announced it would hold off renaming 44 schools with perceived racist names following national criticism for basing its intentions on flawed information.
The school board also had been blasted for prioritizing name changes above reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
School board president Gabriela Lopez released a statement Sunday when she admitted “mistakes have been made” in aiming to rebrand schools currently named for such people as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, per the U.K.’s Daily Mail.
Criticism of the board’s decision intensified last month when it became known renaming committee members allegedly had not consulted historians but instead used Wikipedia and other non-scholarly sources to determine which names were racist and problematic.
“We’re canceling renaming committee meetings for the time being,” Lopez said. “We will be revising our plans to run a more deliberative process moving forward, which includes engaging historians at nearby universities to help.
“We recognize we need to slow down. And we need to provide more opportunities for community input.”
Lopez, 30, took over as president six weeks ago. She said reopening schools “will be the only focus” until children return to classrooms.
“We will not be taking valuable time from our board agendas to further discuss this, as we need to prioritize reopening,” she said.
San Francisco’s school board voted 6-1 last month to rename a third of the city’s schools. The resolution called for removing names that honored historical figures with direct or broad ties to slavery, oppression, racism, or the “subjugation” of humans.
Washington’s name was going to be removed from a high school because he had owned slaves and ordered Indians killed. Lincoln was cited for his treatment of indigenous people.
Other historical figures whose names were to be removed from schools included Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Paul Revere, and author Robert Louis Stevenson.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who served as San Francisco mayor from 1978-88, was to have her name removed from an elementary because she “allowed police dogs to attack Filipino veteran elders,” the committee said.
Lopez, who said she had received death threats since the vote to rename schools, previously defended both the committee and how it went about deciding which schools should be rebranded.
Jeremiah Jeffries, who founded Teachers 4 Social Justice, was appointed chairman of the renaming committee. Jeffries’ parents are prominent members of the Nation of Islam and set up their own Islamic school.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed was among the people questioning the school board’s priorities.
“What I cannot understand is why the school board is advancing a plan of all these schools renamed by April when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then,” Breed said before Lopez released her statement.
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