The San Francisco Unified School District voted this week to rename 44 schools named after controversial public figures, including former Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and current Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The school district, which has more than 57,000 students enrolled, is changing the schools named after historical figures linked to “the subjugation and enslavement of human beings; or who oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress; or whose actions led to genocide; or who otherwise significantly diminished the opportunities of those amongst us to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” according to the text of the resolution.
The school board said it commissioned a panel of community leaders and students in May 2018 to formally identify schools and set up a process for the changes.
On Tuesday, the board voted 6-1.
Schools that will be renamed include: Abraham Lincoln High School, George Washington High School, Dianne Feinstein Elementary, Roosevelt Middle School, Jefferson Elementary and Alamo Elementary.
Lincoln was chosen based on “his treatment of First Nation peoples,” teacher Jeremiah Jeffries told the San Francisco Chronicle in December 2020.
Washington and Jefferson were slaveowners.
Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, was listed for reportedly ordering a Confederate flag to be replaced after it was torn down, according to the Sacramento Bee.
The news also comes more than a year after the school board voted to cover a controversial mural depicting images of slavery and dead Native Americans at George Washington High School.
The board was partially motivated to draft the resolution after the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.
“This resolution came to the school board in the wake of the attacks in Charlottesville,” said San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela López. “And we are working alongside the rest of the country to dismantle symbols of racism and White supremacy culture.”
San Francisco is not the only city to take pass such a resolution.
In recent years, city councils and school districts nationwide have renamed buildings and removed monuments dedicated to Confederate leaders who fought to preserve slavery and White supremacy in America.
In September of 2020, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) identified more than 240 schools across the country that bear the name of a Confederate leader. More than 30 schools in the US have been renamed since 2014 in order to eliminate any link to Confederacy, according to the EJI.
In a statement, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said she supports the board’s decision to rename the schools.
“I understand the significance of the name of a school, and a school’s name should instill a feeling of pride in every student that walks through its doors, regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation,” Breed said.
“In fact, the public elementary school I attended as a child was renamed for Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks, and I believe it is a name that instills pride for the community. This is an important conversation to have, and one that we should involve our communities, our families, and our students.”
However, Breed also expressed frustration that the board has not yet created a plan for reopening schools.
The district, which comprises of 140 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade public schools, is among the many nationwide that has implemented distance learning due to the pandemic.
“What I cannot understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then,” Breed said.
“Our students are suffering, and we should be talking about getting them in classrooms, getting them mental health support, and getting them the resources they need in this challenging time. Our families are frustrated about a lack of a plan, and they are especially frustrated with the fact that the discussion of these plans weren’t even on the agenda for last night’s School Board meeting.”
The school board did not respond to CNN’s request for additional comment about Breed’s statement regarding planning to reopen schools.
The board said it is also seeking the public’s help to suggest names for the schools by submitting them through an online form.
“I view it as an opportunity for our students to learn about the history of our school’s names, including the potential new ones,” López said. “I am excited about the ideas schools will come up with.”
Allen Kim contributed to this report.