Culture

Drake High panel votes to change school name


After six months of conflict, debate and public outcries, a panel at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo has voted to change the school’s name.

“I recognize the seriousness of this moment — and also the opportunity and the hope that we have now,” school principal Liz Seabury said Thursday night after the Drake Leadership Council voted 13 to 2, with one abstention, in favor of the name change.

The recommendation comes amid a movement to change the school’s name to remove any reference to the 16th century English explorer with ties to slave trading.

Opponents in the “No Name Change for Sir Francis Drake High School” Facebook page were not impressed with the panel’s decision.

“It has been rigged from the very beginning,” wrote Dan Orr, an alum of the school who also spoke during public comment at the 2 1/2-hour meeting Thursday. “Since when do employees get to decide the name of the company they work for. The taxpayers should in a general election.”

At least 35 other comments in a similar vein were posted as of Friday morning.

Seabury said the school council, made up of teachers, parents, students and staff, will look at options for a new name at their next meeting Dec. 10. More than 300 suggestions have been submitted.

The group will submit recommendations for a new name to Tara Taupier, superintendent of the Tamalpais Union High School District, for presentation to the board of trustees. The trustees will have the final vote on a new name.

Opponents of the name change have contended that even though Drake, an English explorer who landed on the Marin coast in 1579, participated in two slave trading voyages early in his career, he later turned his life around and became a supporter and liberator for slaves and Indigenous people.

For them, Drake is more a symbol of redemption than of racism or White supremacy and colonialism — as the name change proponents have contended.

“Rather than changing the name and eradicating a symbol, I would encourage you to hire more teachers of color,”  Scott Chapman, an alum and name change opponent, said Thursday. “That would do more to foster inclusion.”

Simon Holt, an 11th-grader at the high school, said the proponents’ portrayal of Drake as “a rapist and a slave trader” was wrong, because Drake changed his life and “freed 5,000 slaves,” he said.

“Drake’s story is one of redemption,” he told the school panel Thursday. “This process is unfair to Sir Francis Drake and has tarnished his name.”

But Jasper Thelin, a Drake teacher and school alum, said that while he shares the opponents’ nostalgic attachments to the name, the key point is how the name affects students and the culture at the school.

“I want to move aside the arguments about his history, and keep it student-centric,” Thelin said Thursday. “If we let this moment pass, the kids will be finding that their voice doesn’t matter. That will be a shame.”

Alumna Maya Hausamman agreed.

“Symbols matter,” she said. “Changing the name won’t be enough to eliminate racism, but …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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