San Francisco halts school-renaming plan after backlash, admits 'mistakes'

San Francisco education leaders faced backlash

The San Francisco Board of Education is abandoning its plan to rename schools named after historical figures like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington until students and teachers are able to return to the classroom, board Commissioner Gabriela Lopez said on Sunday night.

"I also acknowledge and take responsibility for mistakes made in the building renaming process. We need to slow down and provide more opportunities for community input – that cannot happen until AFTER our schools are back in person," Lopez wrote on Twitter.

San Francisco's education leaders faced backlash for focusing on renaming schools amid the coronavirus pandemic. Lopez's announcement came days after parents began circulating a petition to recall Lopez, Vice President Alison Collins and Commissioner Faauuga Moliga for politicizing education, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

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"We are parents, not politicians, and intend to stay that way," organizer Siva Raj told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We are determined to ensure San Francisco’s public schools provide a quality education for every kid in the city."

They hope to get 70,000 signatures in order to get a recall on the ballot.

A plaque for Roosevelt Middle School is seen outside the school in San Francisco, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

A plaque for Roosevelt Middle School is seen outside the school in San Francisco, on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Haven Daley)

"As I talk to parents, I have heard how hard it is to worry about your child shutting down and their struggle to stay motivated in distance learning," Lopez said in a statement. "We're in negotiations to get the work on returning to in-person learning done and I'm committed to working with city partners to get vaccinations, testing and other resources we need."

Lopez said she was "deeply grateful" for the "anti-racist" work of the naming committee.

"School renaming ... was a process begun in 2018 with a timeline that didn't anticipate a pandemic," she said in a statement.

California governor hopeful Kevin Faulconer called the school board's decision a "huge victory."

"The San Francisco Board of Education's decision to halt the renaming of its schools is a huge victory not just in the fight against cancel culture, but most importantly for our children," he told Fox News in a statement. "Now that we've stopped this misguided revisionism, we must get our children back in school immediately, something our elitist governor Gavin Newsom refuses to do."

Faulconer has made reopening schools a key part of his campaign. On Wednesday, Faulconer gave a press conference outside Abraham Lincoln High School, one of 44 San Francisco schools targeted for renaming in recent months because of supposed links to White supremacy. Schools named after Presidents George Washington, William McKinley, James Garfield, James Monroe and Herbert Hoover also made the chopping block.

"San Francisco's school board has prioritized removing the name outside this school, over the education that should be happening inside this school. President Lincoln should be celebrated, not canceled. Getting rid of Lincoln's and Washington's name is outrageous," Faulconer said.

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Faulconer's press conference came a day after the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) postponed scheduled talks on how to safely reopen classrooms.

Fox News' Bradford Betz and Peter Aitken contributed to this report.