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San Francisco School Board to Vote Again on School Name Change

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The San Francisco school board is set to overturn a much criticized decision to purge 44 schools of names it says were linked to racism, sexism or other injustices, a turnaround aimed at avoiding costly litigation and mitigating outrage over what critics have denounced as untimely activism.

Just over two months ago, the city’s elected school board voted to strip schools of the names of such figures as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Louis Stevenson and the longtime Senator from California. Dianne Feinstein.

Parents, students and elected officials have lambasted the council for some of its goals – and its timeline. The decision in late January came as all public classrooms in San Francisco were closed due to coronavirus restrictions. They still are. Mayor London Breed, among others, called it “shocking and totally unacceptable” that the council is focusing on changing school names rather than returning children to classrooms.

Some of the city’s youngest students are expected to start returning to teaching in-person this month after more than a year of distance learning due to the pandemic. There is no schedule for the return of college and high school students.

The name change effort has also been criticized for its shoddy research and historical inaccuracies. A name change advisory committee falsely accused Paul Revere of seeking to colonize the Penobscot people. He also confused the name of the Alamo Elementary School with the Battle of Texas rather than the Spanish word for “poplar”.

Amid the outcry, board chair Gabriela Lopez said in February the process would be put on hold until all the children were back to school. Lopez acknowledged in a statement that errors were made in the selection of schools and said when the board comes back to the issue, it will engage historians for a “more deliberative process.”

The board is due to vote Tuesday on a resolution to overturn its January decision and reconsider the matter once all students have returned to full-time in-person learning.

Since the name change vote, the board has faced several lawsuits, including one from the town hall and the mayor to pressure the school district and school board to reopen classrooms more quickly. Another was filed in March by San Francisco attorney Paul Scott, whose children attend public schools, alleging that the school board’s name change decision violated California’s open meeting law and did not involve the community.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman has issued a ruling calling on council to do what the lawsuit demands – overturn the vote and dissolve the name change advisory committee – or show by April 16 why it doesn’t shouldn’t have to.

The resolution discussed Tuesday does not respond to criticism but denounces the lawsuit, saying it “wishes to avoid distraction and waste of public funds in frivolous litigation.”

In other recent controversies, the school board has been widely criticized for its plan to end merit-based admissions to San Francisco’s best public high school, Lowell, and use the same lottery-based system that admits students in other high schools.

Tuesday’s meeting will also be the first since the board voted last week to remove one of its members, Alison Collins, from her role as vice president and other titles for her tweets about Americans. of Asian origin dating from 2016.

In the tweets, Collins said Asian Americans were using “white supremacist” thinking to move forward. She resisted calls to quit and last week sued the school district and five of her six colleagues, accusing them of violating her free speech rights. She is claiming $ 87 million in damages.

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