SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Mayor London Breed pushed back on plans by the San Francisco Unified School District to rename dozens of schools over namesakes deemed objectionable, saying reopening classrooms should be the top priority.
Breed pointed to COVID-19 health orders that have allowed schools to reopen in September. While many private schools in the city have reopened, the mayor said public schools have yet to make a firm plan to open.
“And now, in the midst of this once in a century challenge, to hear that the District is focusing energy and resources on renaming schools — schools that they haven’t even opened — is offensive,” the mayor said.
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. pic.twitter.com/nHnauVZzFe
— London Breed (@LondonBreed) October 16, 2020
“It’s offensive to parents who are juggling their children’s daily at-home learning schedules with doing their own jobs and maintaining their sanity,” Breed went on to say. “It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends.”
The mayor concluded her statement by urging the district to focus on getting students back into the classroom.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the district’s School Names Advisory Committee has identified 44 out of 125 SFUSD schools that should be renamed due to namesakes having connections to slavery, genocide or oppression.
Criteria for renaming schools include namesakes directly involved in colonization of people, those who espoused racist beliefs, those connected to human rights or environmental abuses, and those who abused women, children, queer or transgender people.
Schools urged for renaming include Balboa High School, named after a Spanish explorer, and schools named after George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, former U.S. presidents who also owned slaves.
The Chronicle reported that Abraham Lincoln High School, named after the president who signed the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery, is on the renaming list based on his treatment of Native Americans.
A school named after Sen. Dianne Feinstein is also on the list after an incident when she was San Francisco mayor where she replaced a vandalized Confederate flag flying at City Hall.
Educational institutions in the Bay Area and across the country have been reevaluating namesakes amid a national reckoning over racism. District officials told KPIX 5 back in June that they had implemented steps to take a closer look at school names before a wave of Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year that were prompted by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
“It’s like a perfect storm, “ SFUSD Board President Mark Sanchez told KPIX 5 at the time. “I think we’re hitting a situation where we could be accelerating the look at renaming our schools and I think that’s a positive thing.”
Like many other districts in the Bay Area, SFUSD has been under distance learning since the start of the school year due to the pandemic.