The San Francisco school board is expected to vote Tuesday to reverse its controversial decision to rename 44 public schools with supposedly racist or sexist namesakes like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
The reversal comes after heavy backlash against the board for attempting to cancel the legacy of important historical figures in California instead of prioritizing school reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last October, San Francisco school officials on the School Names Advisory Committee created a list of 44 school building sites that were named for historical figures and proposed changing the names of those buildings. The buildings on this list were determined to be associated “with slavery, genocide, colonization, exploitation and oppression, among other factors,” and the committee was tasked with purging the buildings of those names.
In January, the school board voted to adopt the committee’s recommendations and move forward with changing the names of these buildings. The decision was made at a time when school children were not attending class in-person because of the pandemic.
However, after intense backlash from parents and even from San Francisco’s mayor, the school board in February paused the plan to rename school buildings. Mayor London Breed said the school board’s priorities were “offensive and completely unacceptable.” Others criticized the renaming committee for poor historical research, including wrongly accusing Paul Revere of attempting to colonize the Penobscot people.
With the board’s decision facing intense scrutiny, board President Gabriela Lopez announced the school renaming process would be put on hold until all students returned to school for in-person instruction.
Now, ABC News reports the board will vote on whether to rescind the order to rename schools entirely, noting that impending threats of litigation will be a factor in its decision.
The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution to rescind its January decision and revisit the matter after all students have returned full time to in-person learning.
Since the renaming vote, the board has faced multiple lawsuits, including one from City Hall and the mayor to pressure the school district and board to reopen classrooms more quickly. Another was filed in March by San Francisco attorney Paul Scott, whose children attend public schools, alleging the school board’s renaming decision violated California’s open meeting law and did not involve the community.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman issued a ruling calling on the board to do what the lawsuit requests — rescind the vote and dissolve the renaming advisory committee — or show by April 16 why it shouldn’t be compelled to do so.
The resolution being considered Tuesday does not address the criticism but denounces the lawsuit, saying it “wishes to avoid the distraction and wasteful expenditure of public funds in frivolous litigation.”
The San Francisco school board has been the subject of several controversies of late. The former vice president of the board Alison Collns was ousted from her position after making racist comments about Asian Americans. Previously, Collins argued against appointing a gay man to the Parent Advisory Council because he was a white male.