San Francisco Schools Will Keep Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington Names

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tags: memorials, San Francisco, monuments, public history

San Francisco’s Board of Education voted to suspend a plan to rename a third of the city’s public schools, including ones honoring Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, after the plan drew a scathing response from parents and the city’s mayor.

In a vote on Tuesday, the board overturned its January decision to rename 44 schools, saying it wanted to avoid the problems of “frivolous litigation.” The schools had been identified by a panel of community leaders as requiring name changes because they honored historical figures who inhibited societal progress, oppressed women or had slaves.

The board of education said in a resolution on Tuesday that it was “deeply grateful for the work of the panel,” but that it wished “to avoid the distraction and wasteful expenditure of public funds in frivolous litigation.” It also said it would revisit the matter of renaming schools “only after all students have returned to in-person learning for five full days each week.”

On the list were schools named after George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Francis Scott Key, figures the board was reconsidering because they “engaged in the subjugation and enslavement of human beings.” Another school was named after Abraham Lincoln, who was being examined for his role in the 1862 execution of 38 Dakota men.

Modern leaders were also included in the list of schools. Feinstein Elementary, named after Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, was on the list because a stolen Confederate flag outside City Hall was replaced in 1984, when she was mayor of San Francisco.

Tom Mentzer, a spokesman for Ms. Feinstein, said that the flag was installed years before she was mayor and was replaced by the parks department on its own accord. Soon after, following consultation with members of the board of supervisors, then-Mayor Feinstein ordered the flag removed and replaced with a Union flag,” he said.

The Board of Education decision on Tuesday indefinitely pauses the debate over school names, which comes as cities, school districts and other institutions around the United States and the world are re-examining, and in some instances removing, historical symbols, names and monuments. But in this case, officials said the reckoning had gone too far, with parents calling the decision to rename 44 schools embarrassing and “a caricature of what people think liberals in San Francisco do.”

Read entire article at New York Times