San Francisco school board votes to change 44 school names deemed 'inappropriate'

The San Francisco Unified District school board voted Tuesday night to rename 44 schools with names deemed 'inappropriate.' 

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the school board voted 6-1 to change the names of dozens of schools in its district. The list includes George Washington High School because the former president owned slaves.

Also on the list: Lincoln High, because of Abraham Lincoln's federal treatment of Native Americans when he was president. 

The San Francisco School Names Advisory Committee researched school names and identified certain ones for renaming back in October.

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The committee's recommendation said the names of Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson that have connections to connections to slavery, genocide, or oppression, must be changed.

According to the paper, certain criteria included: "Anyone directly involved in the colonization of people, those connected to any human rights or environmental abuses, slave owners or participants in enslavement, and known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs."

Other names on the chopping block include Francis Scott Key, who wrote the words to the national anthem, inventor Thomas Edison, Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere, author Robert Louis Stevenson, and former presidents William McKinley, James Garfield, James Monroe, and Herbert Hoover, according to the Chronicle.

An elementary school named for current U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., will also be changed over allegations that she replaced a damaged Confederate flag outside of City Hall when she was the city’s mayor in 1986, according to Courthouse News. She didn’t replace the flag after it was pulled down a second time.

The move comes after a year that has seen statues and monuments of historical figures toppled throughout the U.S., amid a call against racial injustice following the death of George Floyd in police custody back in May.

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Mayor London Breed rebuked the school renaming plan in October as "offensive," saying the school board should be focused on reopening schools closed during the pandemic rather than renaming them.

"It’s offensive to parents who are juggling their children’s daily at-home learning schedules with doing their own jobs and maintaining their sanity," she said at the time, according to Courthouse News. "It’s offensive to me as someone who went to our public schools, who loves our public schools, and who knows how those years in the classroom are what lifted me out of poverty and into college. It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends."

Replacing signage at the 44 schools will cost more than $400,000, according to 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 district is facing a budget deficit.

While the board focused on renaming the schools in the Tuesday meeting, it did not discuss reopening schools from coronavirus shutdowns.

Some critics complained the panel that reviewed the appropriateness of school names used little input from historians and didn’t put the figures into a historical context or weigh their contributions with their failings. Others argued the research process was thin, relying on selective sources and using websites like Wikipedia to back up claims.

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In the case of Roosevelt Middle School, it wasn’t clear if the board knew which former President Roosevelt it was named for, but decided to have it removed anyway.

Board member Mark Sanchez, however, called the decision 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.

Board member Kevine Boggess, who supported the resolution, suggested schools shouldn’t be named after anyone.

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."

School staff and families have until April to suggest new names for the schools.

Fox News and KTVU contributed to this report.