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San Francisco Pauses Plan to Delete Washington and Lincoln from Public School Names

02-23-2021
Image Source: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File
Image Source: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

The San Francisco Unified School District made the ironic decision to cancel — at least for now — its effort to scrub 44 “racist” names from its schools, including those named after Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

San Francisco Board of Education Commissioner Gabriela Lopez chose to table the matter after City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit last week against the school district in an effort to force it to reopen classrooms for in-person learning.

Now Lopez is claiming the school district’s focus will be on reopening classrooms.

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“We’re canceling renaming committee meetings for the time being,” she said. “We will be revising our plans to run a more deliberative process moving forward, which includes engaging historians at nearby universities to help.”

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It’s a wise choice for the board to consult historians — which should have been done from the beginning — given the arguments made for renaming certain schools were untethered from reality, as Alex Griswold pointed out in a lengthy Twitter thread.

“In the meantime,” Lopez continued, “this is the last time I’ll comment publicly on renaming until schools are reopened. We will not be taking valuable time from our board agendas to further discuss this, as we need to prioritize reopening.”

The controversial decision to rename the 44 schools came after the board voted 6-1 in January that the historical names had to go.

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The move was considered timely by some following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and riots after the police-involved death of George Floyd last spring.

“It’s a message to our families, our students, and our community,” said board member Mark Sanchez. “It’s not just symbolic; it’s a moral message.”

In addition to renaming schools, the board also deemed merit-based admission systems “racist” and the district’s Art Department decided acronyms are “a symptom of white supremacy culture” and will no longer be used on school grounds. The SFUSD also said its arts program will be “prioritizing anti-racist arts instruction.”

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Lopez said she remains “deeply grateful” to the renaming committee.

“They are excited about the opportunity to uplift communities that have previously been underrepresented,” she said. “Our students need to attend schools where they feel valued and seen. This work is anti-racist and we’re proud of that.”

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