SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) — It’s a top rated school district in a quiet part of Marin County, but a battle over what the Dixie School District should be called has fractured the community and brought more than bad feelings over a name.

“They’ve got passions on both sides,” said Noah Griffin, a co-founder of changethename.net, the organization hoping to do away with the “Dixie” in the districts’ title.

“A lot of people don’t really appreciate or acknowledge what the history of it is,” said Griffin.

Changethename.net wants the district to go by something else because of the association ‘Dixie’ has with the Confederacy. At the same time, another group, ‘We Are Dixie,’ wants it to stay the same, arguing the name is not racially motivated.

The debate has now escalated to the point of people threatening law suits for defamation, hateful social media posts and name calling on the community website Nextdoor.com.

The debate over the name change has gotten so heated that the folks who represent the ‘We Are Dixie’ group wouldn’t talk to KPIX 5 on camera because they say they’re afraid for their safety.

Instead, they sent KPIX 5 tweets posted by David Curtis, the husband of a school board member and clear advocate for the name change.

He calls ‘We Are Dixie’ a “hate group” and its supporters “white supremacists.” Neither he nor his wife responded for comment.

But Paul Brunell, one of the people he specifically calls out in multiple tweets, sent a statement that said, “These are disgusting lies and serve to create far more hate and divisiveness than the school district name ever could.”

The first major push to change the district’s name was in 1997. Another petition, which would have changed the name to Miller Creek Elementary School District, was voted down by the Board of Trustees in 2003.

The issue came up again in 2015, when South Carolina removed the confederate flag from its state house. Bruce Anderson moved to the district in 1989 and says community members have been trying to get the board to change the name, to no avail. That is why they have turned to the petitions to force a vote.

The next community meeting to discuss the issue is scheduled for February 12th.

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