SF Mulls Changing ‘Racist’ School Names, Including Washington and Lincoln: Black Mayor Calls Timing ‘Offensive’

The main entrance of Abraham Lincoln High School (ALHS), Sunset District, San Francisco, C
BriefEdits /Wikipedia Commons

The San Francisco Unified School District announced the names of 44 school names could be changed because of alleged links to racism and “colonization,” including those named after presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) namesake is also on the list.

The school district’s School Names Advisory Committee is considering the name changes and local news reports said a decision would be announced by December 18.

Forbes Magazine reported on the plan:

The criteria for renaming included “anyone directly involved in the colonization of people,” “slave owners or participants in enslavement,” “perpetuators of genocide,” “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.”

The committee included Dianne Feinstein Elementary School because of the claim she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag as mayor in 1984— though according to Snopes, it’s unclear whether she personally made the decision and a day later she ordered the flag to be replaced with one honoring Union soldiers.

Abraham Lincoln High School is on the list because Lincoln in 1862 ordered the execution of 38 Native Americans who participated in an uprising in the Minnesota and Dakota territories, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Franklin Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere and George Washington are also among the names the committee recommended to be removed from schools.

But according to Forbes and local media outlets, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who is black, issued a statement on the timing of the undertaking given the coronavirus pandemic and the fact most children are not attending schools in person.

The local ABC affiliate reported on the mayor’s reaction:

San Francisco Mayor London Breed also issued a statement Friday calling the ongoing effort an “offensive” move by district officials, and urging them to focus on safely reopening public schools for in person learning rather than renaming at this time.

“I believe in equity, it’s at the forefront of my administration and we’ve made historic investments to address the systemic racism confronting our city,” Breed said, “but the fact that our kids aren’t in school is what’s driving inequity in our city, not the name of a school.”

“Today I issued a statement on the need for our School District to focus on reopening our public schools, not renaming them. To address inequities, we need to get our kids back in the classroom,” Breed said on Twitter on Friday where she posted her statement.

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