San Francisco Reverses Decision to Rename Schools That Honored ‘Racist’ Figures

San Francisco Reverses Decision to Rename Schools That Honored 'Racist' Figures abraham lincoln high school A mural of Abraham Lincoln is visible outside of Abraham Lincoln High School on December 17, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

By Charlie McCarthy | Thursday, 08 April 2021 09:46 AM

San Francisco's public schools board has reversed its decision to rename buildings that honored public figures who liberal activists have since deemed to be racist, anti-women, or anti-gay.

The San Francisco Unified School District's education board in January voted to rebrand schools named after such historic figures as former Presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson. In February, the board decided to delay the effort until schools reopened, since the buildings were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on Tuesday, the board voted unanimously not to pursue renaming the schools — for now, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

The board said it will revisit the issue after all San Francisco students return to in-person learning, five days a week, which is scheduled to occur during the fall semester.

Criticism from parents that the board should instead be focused on getting students back to the classroom full-time, as well as multiple lawsuits from the city and a group of school alumni, led to the reversal, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

One lawsuit alleged that the board violated the Brown Act, the state's open meeting law. The renaming process also was criticized for not including experts, some of whom later cited errors in some of the labeling applied to the public figures.

A court order issued last month required the board to either reverse its decision or show cause why it should not by May 6.

"We all share the same values of reflecting on our history and trying to uplift disadvantaged groups, particularly those most oppressed, but the process has to be fair and open for the end result to endure and be respected by the community," said Paul Scott, the attorney representing plaintiffs opposed to the renaming decision, in an email before the vote. "They could have been dedicating their energy to getting kids back in school. Instead, they created a legal mess and left San Francisco residents with no alternative but to file suit against the board to clean it up."

The school board resolution approved Tuesday called the suit "a transparent attempt to thwart a lawful and duly-noticed action with which it disagrees. The board is deeply grateful for the work of the panel, but wishes to avoid the distraction and wasteful expenditure of public funds in frivolous litigation."

The renaming effort also led to a recall campaign to oust Board President Gabriela Lopez and two fellow board members.

The process to rename schools began in 2018, when a blue-ribbon panel was formed to examine the legacy of slavery and racism that was allegedly reflected in many names and statues. The panel recommended renaming 44 schools for their supposed associations with slavery, colonization and oppression.

Despite much opposition, many supported the decision.

"We had a board that was committed to doing the same here in San Francisco, to not allow vestiges of racial injustice and inequity to stay here," said Bivett Brackett, an SFUSD alum. “Now we’re pretty much going back on that. The process is being co-opted by people with moneyed interests who have come to this board before and made very anti-Black, anti-Asian statements."

The San Francisco school board has made other controversial decisions recently, including ending an admissions test at an elite, STEM-based public school because the test allegedly perpetuated white supremacy, according to The Washington Free Beacon.