The San Francisco School Names Advisory Committee has identified 44 public schools in the city that have inappropriate names, including a school that was named after California Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) back in the 2000s.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the list of problematic school names was developed using seven different criteria, only one of which needs to be satisfied in order to land a school on the committee’s potential renaming list.
The criteria include:
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.
So how did Feinstein, the former mayor of San Francisco and the longest-serving woman currently in the U.S. Senate, end up on the list? Well, according to the San Francisco Chronicle: “The school made the list because, as mayor in 1986, Feinstein reportedly replaced a vandalized Confederate flag, one of several historic flags flying in front of City Hall at the time.”
According to SFGate, when the school board originally voted to name the school after Feinstein, they also had to suspend a policy that blocked them from doing so on account that Feinstein was still alive.
In total, over one-third of the district’s 125 public schools made the list of “inappropriate” names. The list includes eight schools named after U.S. presidents—including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln—the composer of the Star Spangled Banner, Francis Scott Key, and the Revolutionary-era patriot Paul Revere.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that one committee member also wanted Thomas Edison Elementary School to be renamed because the American inventor, back in 1903, had killed “Topsy the Elephant” via electrocution. The committee disagreed.
Any of the public schools that have been placed on the list are expected to submit a list of possible name changes by mid-December, reports the news agency. The school board would need to then approve any name change before it could be officially adopted.
According to the Mercury News, two elementary schools named after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were approved for a name change by the school board in Berkeley, California, earlier this year, on account that both men owned slaves.
Over the past several months, a fervor to rename or de-name schools, universities, or other affiliated buildings has taken off across the country.
In January, the UC Berkeley Law School de-named itself because John Boalt, the man after whom the law school was named, was found to be racist toward Chinese people back in the late 1800s. In July, Loyola University Maryland announced it would change the name of a dorm named after Flannery O’Connor due to allegations that the 20th-Century American author had written letters with racist language in them.
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