The San Francisco Board of Education will advance a controversial plan to rename 44 schools in the city.
On Tuesday evening, the board approved a resolution by a vote of 6-1 to change school names that honored historical figures with direct or broad ties to slavery, oppression, racism or the “subjugation” of human beings.
“This is an opportunity for our students to learn about the history of our school’s names, including the potential new ones,” Board President Gabriela López said in a statement. “This resolution came to the school board in the wake of the attacks in Charlottesville, and we are working alongside the rest of the country to dismantle symbols of racism and white supremacy culture. I am excited about the ideas schools will come up with.”
Schools whose names will be replaced will have an opportunity to propose ideas to the Board. In addition, the Board will take suggestions from the broader community. Final decisions to change school names will be determined by elected members of the Board of Education in April.
In addition to former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, the list includes naturalist John Muir, Spanish priest Junipero Serra, American revolution patriot Paul Revere, composer of the “Star Spangled Banner” Francis Scott Key, and current Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Changing the name of Dianne Feinstein Elementary school has raised eyebrows. The trailblazing 87-year old’s star has dimmed in recent years with dismayed liberals joining calls for her retirement after she embraced Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham at the heated confirmation hearings on U.S. Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
The committee that selected the names included Feinstein because in 1984, while mayor of San Francisco, she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag that was part of a long-standing flag display in front of City Hall. When the flag was pulled down a second time, she did not replace it.
A spokesperson for Feinstein declined to comment to FOX Business on the resolution.
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Board member Mark Sanchez called the decision to rename the schools a “moral message.”
“It’s a message to our families, our students and our community. It’s not just symbolic,” he said, according to the Chronicle
However, some critics argued that the board used little input from historians and didn’t put the figures into a historical context or weigh their contributions with their failings, while others said the research process was thin, relying on selective sources and using websites like Wikipedia to back up claims.
One example was Roosevelt Middle School, where board members did not appear to know which former President Roosevelt the school was named for, despite deciding to remove the name anyway.
School board member Kevine Boggess, who was the lone no vote, argued that schools should not be named after elected officials, a rule he wanted included in the renaming process.
We “should not make heroes out of mortal folks,” he said, according to the Chronicle. “I think we need to examine our naming policies across the district and really consider how the way we go about naming schools reflects our true values.”
Another critic of the move was San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who said in a statement Wednesday that while she understands that a school’s name should “instill a feeling of pride in every student that walks through its doors, regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation,” she does not understand the rush to ensure all schools are renamed by April “when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then.”
“Our students are suffering, and we should be talking about getting them in classrooms, getting them mental health support, and getting them the resources they need in this challenging time,” Breed said. “Our families are frustrated about a lack of a plan, and they are especially frustrated with the fact that the discussion of these plans weren’t even on the agenda for last night’s School Board meeting.”
Breed added that while she supports discussion around renaming schools, students, parents and other members of the community should be involved. In addition, she believes the discussion should take place when schools are reopened.
“Let’s bring the same urgency and focus on getting our kids back in the classroom, and then we can have that longer conversation about the future of school names,” Breed said.
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Historian Harold Holzer warned the Associated Press of a “danger of excess” as the country takes a wrecking ball to its past.
“I think there’s a danger in applying 21st century moral standards to historical figures of one or two centuries ago,” he said. “We expect everyone to be perfect. We expect everyone to be enlightened. But an enlightened person of 1865 is not the same as an enlightened person of 2021.”
Holzer disagrees with the renaming of Abraham Lincoln High School, which the San Francisco committee said was due to the treatment of Native Americans during Lincoln’s administration.
“No one deserves more credit for the destruction of slavery,” said Holzer, who is a Lincoln Scholar and director of Hunter College’s Roosevelt House of Public Policy Institute. “Lincoln is much more liberator than he is an abuser on the subject of racial justice,” he said, adding. “He is a soaring figure in American history.”
Replacing signage at the 44 schools will cost more than $400,000, according to the Courthouse News. The price tag could also go up to around $1 million for schools to get new activity uniforms, repaint gymnasium floors, etc., according to the Chronicle. The Chronicle noted that the district currently faces a significant budget deficit, which could reach $75 million by next school year.
Fox News’ Brooke Singman and the Associated Press contributed to this report