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44 San Francisco schools honoring Washington, Lincoln and others to be renamed, board slammed for 'crazy cancel culture'

GOP Senator Tom Cotton criticized the move saying the board has no time to think about how to 'safely reopen schools in times of the Covid-19 pandemic but will cancel Abraham Lincoln'
UPDATED JAN 28, 2021
The Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, California (Getty Images)
The Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco, California (Getty Images)

The San Francisco school board has drawn flak for voting to strike the names of historical figures like George Washington, Thomas Jefferseon and Abraham Lincoln from the district’s schools. According to multiple reports, the board, in a 6-1 vote, deemed the former presidents as those having ties to racism or "dishonorable legacies" and it will now see 44 San Francisco Unified School District schools changing their names.

While Washington and Jefferson were slave owners, Lincoln courted controversy despite ending slavery as critics accused him of oppressing indigenous people. The School Names Panel recommended the renaming in a meeting held last November. 

Even a school named after current California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein will be changed. Feinstein Elementary will have to change its name owing to allegations that the veteran senator replaced a damaged Confederate flag outside the City Hall when she was the mayor of the city between 1978 and '88. The flag was part of an 18-banner historical display outside of the hall and had been there for 14 years before she took office, according to a Daily Mail report. 

California Senator Dianne Feinstein (Getty Images)

The move, which stirred up a controversy, follows the wave of anti-racism protests that rocked the US last summer in the wake of murders of a few individuals of color, including Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks. Those protests witnessed tumbling down of several statues, particularly of Confederate leaders, resulting in a huge political controversy and mud slinging.

The decision of the San Francisco school board drew a strong reaction from lawmakers, including Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton and his senior colleague Lindsey Graham. According to Cotton, the board should be concentrating on bringing students back to physical classes in times of the pandemic — an issue which has remained critical as the US struggles to contain the spread of the disease that has claimed more than 428,000 lives in the country. 

Workers remove a police memorial statue covered in red paint by protesters on June 11, 2020, in Richmond, Virginia (Getty Images)

GOP senator slams board

“San Francisco can't figure out how to safely open schools. But they have the time and energy to cancel Abraham Lincoln,” Cotton tweeted. The San Francisco school district has more than 57,000 students enrolled annually

Slamming the move as “crazy cancel culture”, Graham tweeting: “In my view, the liberal school board in San Francisco - who believes naming schools after Abraham Lincoln and George Washington is something to be embarrassed about – are Exhibit A in crazy cancel culture.”

In another tweet, the South Carolina senator cautioned: “There will be a major backlash throughout this country against radical liberals who despise our country and those historical figures who founded our nation and saved our union.”



Even former president Donald Trump, who blasted the statue-dethroning movement last year, also criticized the school board’s plan. 

Among other names that featured on the list of the newly banned are Francis Scott Key, who penned the words to the national anthem. Other former presidents like William McKinley, James Monroe, James Garfield and Herbert Hoover as well as author Robert Louis Stevenson and Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere feature on the list. The 87-year-old Feinstein is the only living person whose name was noted to be struck off.

San Francisco Chronicle reported that all the schools will have time until April to select new names for their respective campuses and the board members will then vote on them. 

Board members defend move, call it 'moral message'

The board members were unapologetic about the move. Kevine Boggess, one of them who backed the resolution, told Chronicle that the board “should not make heroes out of mortal folks”. “I think we need to examine our naming policies across the district and really consider how the way we go about naming schools reflects our true values,” he said. 

His colleague Mark Sanchez said it was a “moral message” to families, students and the community and not something “just symbolic”. The name-changing exercise, however, would also result in a massive rise in expenses and it was criticized by local residents.

CBN News reported that “the $400,000 price could skyrocket to more than $1 million as the cost of replacing athletic uniforms and school mascot symbols on stadiums and gym floors. The budget deficit for the school district next year could reach $75 million, according to several media outlets”. Local people also slammed the board's decision on social media as “cancel culture”.