School Board forms committee to explore renaming schools

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    Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Educations members voice their thoughts on the movement to form a committee to research new school names. “I think the case has been made that we should have a committee that looks at a range of viewpoints and historical perspectives,” School Board Member Camille Townsend said. “As we can see this is a much bigger issue than just this room, it’s a topic that affects our whole community.”

    The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education is forming a citizens advisory committee to research and consider if a name change is necessary for any PAUSD school after a unanimous vote Feb. 9 during a board meeting.

    The advisory committee will research fiscal, cultural and practical complications of changing school names with a focus that is largely on but not limited to renaming David Starr Jordan Middle School, based on Jordan’s history as a eugenicist, or person who believe in the improvement of the gene pool, according to Supt. Max McGee.

    During the meeting, board member Camille Townsend made sure to note people should take into account that 100 years ago, Jordan’s ideas weren’t so radical. 

    “I think the case has been made that we should have a committee that looks at a range of viewpoints and historical perspectives,” Townsend said. “As we can see this is a much bigger issue than just this room, it’s a topic that affects our whole community.”

    Board Member Melissa Caswell also voiced her support for the formation of the committee.

    “I was just thinking what it must feel like to walk into a place every day and know you don’t feel welcome,” Caswell said. “And it’s our job to make sure all of our students feel welcome.”

    The vote was conducted after over a dozen Social Justice Pathway students from Palo Alto High School spoke, solidifying many of the community member’s arguments voiced in previous meetings.

    Junior Mariah Poitier, Paly’s social justice and school climate commissioner, gave an impassioned speech about her experience as a minority who walked through the halls of Jordan.

    “It’s been hard going to this school in this district and knowing that people support someone who, given the opportunity, would have sterilized me and called me stupid,” Poitier said.

    The committee findings are due by Dec. 31 and will be presented soon after, according to McGee.

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