SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The President of the San Francisco Board of Education this week announced a controversial proposal to change the names of schools named after slave owners in the City including George Washington High School.

According to reports and social media posts, San Francisco Board of Education President Matt Haney was inspired by a service at the Third Baptist Church Sunday morning. That afternoon, Haney posted on Facebook that he thought the city should rename George Washington High School after poet Maya Angelou.

“Maya Angelou went to George Washington High School in San Francisco. But she was kicked out because she became pregnant, an experience she writes about in her autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I think we should rename the school after her,” Haney wrote.

He continued: “Maya Angelou is a legendary San Franciscan, poet, and author, and her name would replace that of a slave owner whose name is ubiquitous on schools, streets and buildings. Maya Angelou is already in the Washington HS Hall of Fame.”

Haney noted that the Washington High School community would have to support the idea for it to happened and asked for their input. In another post, he suggested changing  the name of Francis Scott Key Elementary.

“How do we explain the name of her school to a third grader at Francis Scott Key Elementary? Do we tell her about Key’s role in writing the “Star Spangled Banner,” leaving out that he owned slaves and was a noted anti-abolitionist?” Haney asked in the post. 

The posts received mostly positive feedback to the idea in the comments, but Haney would later share a few angry messages he received from people who disagreed with the idea, including one person who compared him to communist leaders Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong.

The posts and online discussion prompted several articles on the informal proposal. On Wednesday, Haney posted a video that discussed the idea, mentioning San Francisco’s history of naming schools after civil rights figures like Caesar Chavez and Harvey Milk.

“Every school deserves a name that inspires pride, that has some meaning or relevance,” said Haney in the video.

He goes on to address the naming of schools after historical figures, including many white men with problematic histories involving the owning of slaves and genocide, and his concerns over the impact those names have on a student body made up mostly of children of color.

According to reports, Haney plans to introduce a resolution to the San Francisco Board of Education this month to clarify the rules for renaming schools in the city that would allow the communities at George Washington High School, Francis Scott Key Elementary School or any other schools facing similar concerns.


Comments (7)
  1. john Carrey says:

    Idiot!! History is history and George Washington was the man who led the United States to independence and was our first President. It isn’t a crime to honor a man who did so much for our country – in a different time where political correctness didn’t rule the world.

  2. tn says:

    This is lunacy gone out-of-control. If you dig deep enough in everyone, there are skeletons in everyone’s closet. Eliminating or replacing the name of our 1st president of the United States, slave owner or not, shouldn’t be the basis for re-naming institutions or structures. Besides the additional taxes and massive costs involved in this “update,” we are also putting how far we have come in our US history, into a closet. What’s next? Eliminating Andrew Jackson from our $20 bill because he was also a slave owner and took an extremely special liking to African women? Should we change Coit Tower to another activist just because Lilian Coit loved to party with the affluent socialites and white firemen? C’mon now?
    I respect and understand the importance of social issues but why take it out on our past presidents? Especially when, at the time, it WAS more acceptable (not necessarily correct) and wasn’t as controversial as it is now? Why can’t our school districts (and parents) spend their time, focus, money and energy on educating our next generation about how to be respectful productive citizens, instead of spending time and money changing the signage, administrative assets, curriculum, and infrastructure? Really?

    1. tn says:

      Board of Education Haney- Let’s not “rewrite” history but let’s learn from history and respect it for what it was so that we can move forward and be better people because of it. Legacy is not made by what structures you re-name, in the name of social justice or political correctness, but true legacy is what value and wisdome you give and pass to the next generation.

  3. It’s hard to believe an ass like Matt Haney can be allowed to spread his excrement and influence on high school kids. Wow… Our first President and leader of the American Revolution isn’t good enough for him.

  4. steve says:

    For an educator this fella is pretty dense. He condemns a man for what he perceives as immorality while endorsing another who was guilty of a different sort of immorality. I guess in his warped mind different immoralities should be judged differently and he’s the guy to make the call.Obviously a judgmental leftist wacko with plans for higher office.

  5. Mr. Mitchell says:

    I don’t know where KPIX gets the idea that he received mostly positive feedback on his Facebook page That was not the case. He had so many negative ones, he deleted many of his posts on the matter. Go to his Facebook page now and you’ll see nothing but negative comments. One even threatened him with violence.