MARIN COUNTY (CBS SF) — Hours after a statue of Sir Francis Drake was removed from Larkspur Landing, workers were seen Wednesday taking down the letters at the front of Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo.
In a statement, the Sir Francis Drake High School administration said that its goal is for the school to become more anti-racist, and to foster a safe and healthy learning environment for students.
“We recognize that a performative act of a simple name change is not enough. By supporting this action, we are not seeking to erase our history but to acknowledge the deep racist roots of that history,” the statement read in part.
The high school administration further emphasized its recognition that the name Sir Francis Drake and the school’s Pirates mascot do not align with the school’s values, due to Sir Francis Drake having been a prominent slave owner during his lifetime.
The school’s Site Leadership Council will recommend names to the school district Board of Trustees, who will then approve a new name with the help and input of the community.
Community input sessions are scheduled on Aug. 12 and 25, and Sept. 8. All notes and recordings will also be published online. All symbols associated with the current school name are being removed or covered.
According to Central Marin police, several calls were made by community members reporting the removal or covering activities as vandalism at the school. The police reassured community members that the activities are authorized and organized by the high school and TUHSD.
Sir Francis Drake High School opened in 1951. For nearly 70 years, it was known to many simply as Drake High. On Wednesday, the name came down.
Robert Ovetz is a political scientist. His daughter attends Drake.
“Drake was the kind of pirate who looted, raped and kidnapped people and enslaved them,” explained Ovetz.
He said keeping the name Sir Francis Drake glorifies the ancient pirate and slave trader. He was very happy with Wednesday’s action.
“Maintaining names like Sir Francis Drake on a school where young people are going is offensive,” said Ovetz.
Word spread quickly. Students and parents gathered in the parking lot to see the school staff remove the name that had been in place for generations. Not everyone was pleased.
Former student Federal Sousa said he is astonished the name is being removed.
“I just find it so shocking that some of the history is gone,” said Sousa. “I don’t necessarily agree with history, but it’s a part of Marin County’s history. I don’t like all history, but it’s history. It’s not pretty.”
Wrestling coach Johann Gerlach understands the move.
“I think they have to do what they have to do to squelch any response that could end up being a tough one,” said Gerlach.
Earlier Wednesday in the predawn darkness, a city work crew removed a large statue of Sir Francis Drake from Larkspur Landing early Wednesday morning.
As has been the pattern around the country, protesters or city officials have been removing statues of historical figures associated with social injustice. The Tam Equity Campaign has been advocating for the removal of the statue because Drake was a widely known slave trader.
“The removal is in response to planned demonstrations to tear down or demolish the statue this Thursday in a way that is potentially unsafe,” said a news release from the Central Marin Police Department. “Removing the statue is intended to promote public safety while preserving the statue so that dialogue about its future can continue.”
Robbie Powelson, founder of the Tam Equity Campaign, had said his group would focus efforts toward reallocating county funding in Marin for social services as well as the renaming of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.
“The renaming of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard is still in process. We’re waiting for Sir Francis Drake High School as well. We’re talking about not just changing the name, but ‘how do we defund local police departments and reduce the amount of police violence in our communities? How do we make Marin County more equitable?'” Powelson said.
In June, the city council held public forum and after hearing many perspectives from 40 members of the community, directed officials to research the logistical and regulatory process for the removal of the large statue.
In August, officials will meet again to determine if the statue’s removal will be permanent.
Don Ford contributed to this story.