Parents and staff members at a Los Angeles elementary school have voted to keep Michael Jackson’s name on its auditorium despite the recent allegations that the pop icon sexually abused young boys.
Gardner Street Elementary School, which the pop icon himself once attended, will continue to pay tribute to Jackson after the majority of school staffers and parents of students voted in favor of maintaining “Michael Jackson Auditorium” as the name of the facility, school officials said last week.
The vote took place in the wake of the recent HBO documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” which featured the disturbing stories of two men – Wade Robson and James Safechuck – who claimed that Jackson sexually abused them when they were boys.
The men first came forward with their stories years earlier in lawsuits. Both had previously denied Jackson sexually abused them, but after having their own children -- and after the singer’s death in 2009 -- they said they had to face the truth. Their lawsuits were dismissed for technical reasons and their appeals are expected to be argued this summer.
Jackson, who was cleared in 2005 of charges that he molested another boy, admitted that over the years he befriended multiple children. He said he invited some into his bed, but denied molesting any of them.
After the airing of the documentary, a group of parents approached school principal Karen Hollis and asked to take Jackson’s name down from the auditorium, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Other parents objected, arguing that Jackson was never convicted of the alleged crimes and noting that the singer is no longer around to defend himself.
Even Jackson’s estate inserted itself into the fight to keep the name, with a spokesperson urging the school community to respect Jackson’s right to remain innocent until proven guilty, according to the newspaper.
The auditorium was reportedly named for Jackson in 1989, way before Jackson became dogged by controversies and allegations.
Robson, one of the alleged victims, told the Times before the vote that he commends the school for giving parents a choice.
“I commend Gardner Street School for allowing the parents to decide whether or not Michael Jackson’s name should remain on the auditorium,” Robson said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.