San Francisco School Board Forced to Abandon Controversial Plan to Rename Schools Honoring Historic Figures

The San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education drew nationwide attention earlier this year over its announcement to change the name of 44 schools “named after figures with disputed historical relevance.” And now, following widespread public condemnation and a vote of members, the board has decided it will no longer go along with its initial plan and will leave the schools’ names as they currently are.

Tim Fitzsimons of NBC News has reported that the “San Francisco school board voted on Tuesday [April 7] to suspend the controversial process of renaming 44 city schools named after historical and public figures — including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and current U.S. senator from California, Dianne Feinstein.”

According to Fitzsimons, other namesake schools included: Thomas Jefferson, Mexican-American War veteran and U.S. Senator Robert F. Stockton and naturalist John Muir.

When the plan was initially announced, San Francisco officials explained that the 44 schools were named after historical figures who “significantly diminished the opportunities of those amongst us to the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The resolution also claimed that many of the figures in question “engaged in the subjugation and enslavement of human beings; or who oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress; or whose actions led to genocide.”

Mayor London Breed
Mayor London Breed speaks at a rally for San Francisco public schools. 13 Mar 2021 (Jeff Chiu/AP/Shutterstock)

“The process to rename the schools drew bipartisan criticism, including from San Francisco’s own Democratic mayor, London Breed, who called the effort to rename the schools in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic ‘offensive,’” Fitzsimons reported. “The decision to rename the 44 schools also drew lawsuits and a ruling from a San Francisco Superior Court ordered the board to rescind the process until children have resumed in-person learning.”

On April 6, the approved resolution to rename the schools was formally rescinded with a 6-0 vote, overriding the original 6-1 in February 2021 that initiated the renaming process. That said, Fitzsimons noted that officials would have the option to revisit the matter at a later date.

In a statement issued to NBC News following the vote, Mayor Breed said she is “glad the School Board took this step, but what really matters right now is our children are not in the classroom. That’s everything. We need to get all of our schools open for full in-person learning as quickly as possible. Nothing matters more.”


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.