San Francisco’s school board late Tuesday night suspended its controversial plan to rename a third of its public schools with names its members claimed honor “racist” historical leaders.
The city’s Board of Education voted unanimously to reverse its decision to strip 44 public schools of names of historic figures, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Louis Stevenson.
However, the board will revisit the matter after all students have returned full time to in-person learning.
During Tuesday’s meeting, parents, students and elected officials criticized the board for its original decision and timing. The decision in late January sparked a huge backlash, along with legal challenges for the decision being made without community input, according to the New York Post.
The original decision came at a time when all of San Francisco’s public classrooms were closed because of coronavirus restrictions. Mayor London Breed, called it “offensive and completely unacceptable” for the board to focus on changing school names rather than getting children back into classrooms, AP reported.
“The repeal of this amendment to change the name of 44 schools gives me hope that you realize San Francisco voters are your boss,” said Marcia, a former principal of a San Francisco elementary school.
“We elected you to lead our school district, not dismantle it. Leave the decision for a name change, or not, up to each school,” the former principal said.
A parent in the district admitted the renaming of schools is an “important issue,” but blasted the school board’s initial process as an “embarrassment.”
“I was incredibly disappointed by how poorly it was handled,” the woman said.
“The board did not really take any reasonable efforts to have community input into this. To let schools decide what they wanted to do.”
Another parent added: “When considering renaming schools, keep in mind that context matters. You can’t completely cancel history.”
Historical inaccuracies in the renaming plan included wrongly accusing Paul Revere of seeking to colonize the Penobscot people, and confusing the name of Alamo Elementary School with the Texas battle rather than the Spanish word for “poplar tree,” the Post reports.
Since passing its original plan, the school board was ridiculed for shoddy research that included consulting Wikipedia rather than historians.
Tuesday’s resolution said it “wishes to avoid the distraction and wasteful expenditure of public funds in frivolous litigation.”