San Francisco Schools Consider Removing Names of Presidents, Including Lincoln, Washington

The Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline of downtown San Francisco, 2016. (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The names of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.), and other figures could be removed from San Francisco public schools for connections to racism, environmental abuses, and other offenses, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Thursday.

The district’s School Names Advisory Committee has drawn up a working paper with recommendations to change the names of 44 public schools in the city. The recommendations will be sent to the San Francisco Board of Education, although it is not clear if the Board will adopt the proposals.

According to the working report, school names should be reconsidered for any historical figure “directly involved in the colonization of people, those connected to any human rights or environmental abuses, slave owners or participants in enslavement, and known racists and/or white supremacists and/or espoused racist beliefs.”

The elementary school named after Senator Feinstein was included in the recommendations because of allegations that during her tenure as San Francisco mayor, she ordered the replacement of a Confederate flag outside City Hall, after the flag was vandalized in 1984. It is not clear if this allegation is correct, and Feinstein in fact proceeded to remove the flag.

“Principals are devoting resources to this,” Jonathan Alloy, a parent of students at one of the schools on the list, told the Chronicle. “We’re not actually helping disadvantaged children by changing the name of the school they can’t attend.”

School Board spokeswoman Laura Dudnik told National Review that the district was continuing to work towards providing instruction, both online and in person, during the pandemic.

“The district appreciates that the advisory committee’s timing may be difficult for schools, and has conveyed concerns to the advisory committee regarding the challenges of making recommendations at this time given that we are in distance learning due to the pandemic,” Dudnik wrote in an email.

The recommended name changes follow months of demonstrations after the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers. Rioters in San Francisco have torn down statues of various historical figures, including of Ulysses S. Grant, the northern general who led the fight against the Confederacy in the Civil War.

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.