San Francisco will likely reverse plan to rename schools honoring historical leaders

San Francisco is on Tuesday expected to overturn its “offensive” plan to purge dozens of schools with names its Board of Education claimed honor “racist” historical leaders.

The California city’s Board of Education had in January voted to strip 44 schools of the names of historic figures, including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Robert Louis Stevenson. 

The decision sparked a huge backlash — as well as legal challenges for the decision being made without community input. 

The school board was also ridiculed for shoddy research and often wildly inaccurate claims linking school names to racism, sexism or other injustices.

Laurence Tribe, one of the attorneys involved in lawsuits against the plans, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he is “definitely on board that sometimes names ought not to be preserved.”

The main entry to George Washington High School is seen in San Francisco, on Jan. 27, 2021.The main entry to George Washington High School is seen in San Francisco, on Jan. 27, 2021.
AP Photo/Haven Daley

But “I think it goes dangerously far when the Great Emancipator is treated as insufficiently woke,” he said of attacks on Honest Abe.

Mayor London Breed also called it “offensive and completely unacceptable” for the board to focus on changing school names rather than getting children back into classrooms amid the pandemic.

Amid the backlash and legal challenges, the board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution to rescind its renaming decision and revisit it after all students have returned full time to in-person learning.

Rather than addressing the criticism, the resolution says it “wishes to avoid the distraction and wasteful expenditure of public funds in frivolous litigation.”

The board’s president, Gabriela Lopez, had already paused the renaming process in February after admitting the anti-racism push had been rushed.

“I acknowledge and take responsibility that mistakes were made in the renaming process,” Lopez wrote in an op-ed for the Chronicle at the time.

A plaque for Roosevelt Middle School is seen outside the school in San Francisco, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.
A plaque for Roosevelt Middle School is seen outside the school in San Francisco, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021.
AP Photo/Haven Daley

Any future efforts would involve “engaging historians at nearby universities to help” to avoid future errors, she said.

Mistakes 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.”

As well as historical figures, longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein was also on the list because as mayor in 1984 she had replaced a vandalized Confederate flag that was part of a longstanding display outside City Hall.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein was also on the list of name removals because as mayor in 1984 she had replaced a vandalized Confederate flag.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein was also on the list of name removals because as mayor in 1984 she had replaced a vandalized Confederate flag.
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File

Tuesday’s vote precedes an April 16 deadline given in a San Francisco Superior Court ruling to either rescind the vote or show why the board shouldn’t be compelled to do so.

With Post wires