San Francisco School Board Reverses Decision to Rename Schools

Parents slammed district for renaming schools while keeping them closed

San Francisco's Abraham Lincoln High School / Getty Images
• April 7, 2021 3:30 pm


After facing criticism from parents, San Francisco's public school district on Tuesday rescinded its decision to rename dozens of schools with "inappropriate" namesakes—including Abraham Lincoln High School. 

In a resolution, the San Francisco Unified School District's education board said it reversed the decision "to avoid the distraction and wasteful expenditure of public funds in frivolous litigation." The district faced multiple lawsuits from the city and a group of school alumni after the board voted in January to rename 44 district schools that are named after individuals with purported ties to oppression and racism. Schools named after Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, as well as patriot Paul Revere, were set to be renamed before Tuesday's reversal.

Officials said they would only take up the project again when all district students are back in the classroom. 

The education board first considered renaming more than one-third of the district's schools in October. School officials deemed the names of schools "inappropriate" if they were named after racists, white supremacists, slave owners, colonizers, historical figures who oppressed women or the gay community, or others who perpetuated human rights abuses. 

The decision sparked outcry from parents and city officials, who slammed the board for prioritizing the renaming of schools over reopening them. One parent told the New York Times that the decision was a "caricature of what people think liberals in San Francisco do." 

Historians also criticized the board's renaming plan, citing several factual errors. For example, school board members planned to rename Paul Revere Elementary School because they said the patriot tried to steal land from the Penobscot people in Maine, when in fact, he led an unsuccessful battle there against the British. 

The city of San Francisco sued the school district in February for keeping schools closed, citing skyrocketing rates of suicidal ideation among the city's children. The board paused its plan to rename schools later that month. 

Renaming schools was one of several controversial decisions made by the school board in recent months. In February, district officials voted to nix an admissions test at Lowell High School—the district's elite, STEM-based public school—because the test allegedly perpetuated white supremacy. Lowell is often criticized for lacking diversity, though minorities comprise more than 75 percent of the school's student body. More than half of the school's students are Asian.

Education board vice president Alison Collins found herself in hot water late last month after parents found anti-Asian comments the official tweeted in 2016. Collins called Asian Americans "house n*****s" who "use white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.'" The official refused to resign even after pressure from Mayor London Breed (D.), parents, and other officials.

San Francisco public schools are set to reopen beginning next week. Preschool through second grade at some elementary schools will return April 12, with third through fifth grade to follow on April 19. Middle and high school students are expected to return to the classroom on April 26.

Faauuga Moliga, a board member, told the Washington Free Beacon that he would create a resolution to "ensure integrity" in the renaming process if the board takes up the issue after schools reopen.