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CPS will rename three schools, including one named after Christopher Columbus

CPS will rename three schools, including one named after Christopher Columbus

Three Chicago public schools will be renamed in the latest changes aimed at getting rid of racist or otherwise problematic namesakes.

They make nine schools that have been renamed since a 2020 Chicago Sun-Times investigation found that 30 schools were named after slave owners, and that those named after white people — mostly men — were outnumbered 4-1 were then the schools named for African Americans, and Latinos 9-1. and indigenous population 120-1.

In a school system where 82% of students are black or Hispanic, officials have vowed to make changes. They established a policy last year for schools that want to change their names. They can submit a request, hold at least four meetings in which student opinions are taken into account, draw up a share plan and vote on a name.

Rachel Parnell, program manager in CPS’s equity office, previewed the latest proposals for Board of Education members on Tuesday ahead of next week’s full board meeting.

“If we do not improve this, we will continue to perpetuate school names that do not reflect the students in the communities we serve,” Parnell said.

Under the latest changes, Melville Fuller Elementary in Bronzeville will become James Farmer Jr. Elementary after meetings in February and April led to a 14-9 vote by the Local School Council in favor of a new name.

Fuller was the eighth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1888 until his death in 1910. Most notably, he upheld racial segregation laws in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson under a “separate but equal” theory. The school named after him in Chicago has 303 students, 95% of whom are black.

Farmer, the school’s new namesake, was one of the key leaders of the American Civil Rights Movement. He reportedly organized the nation’s first civil rights sit-in in Chicago, and co-founded the Congress of Racial Equality to protest social injustice through nonviolent action.

In the Ukrainian Village, Christopher Columbus Elementary will lose its name and be known as Ruth Bader Ginsburg Elementary after a 7-3 vote of the local school board.

Columbus is a controversial figure who has been supported by some in the Italian-American community in efforts to remove his name from public view. During his travels from Europe to the New World, he captured hundreds of Indians and brought them back to sell in Spain. When some groups of natives revolted after being put to work in gold mines and plantations, Columbus ordered a crackdown in which many were killed and their dismembered bodies paraded through the streets.

Bader Ginsburg is the former Supreme Court justice known for his passionate dissents that often ended up on the liberal side of the law. She became known as a feminist icon after expressing opinions throughout her career in favor of gender equality. New namesakes for CPS must have been dead for at least a year. Ginsburg died in 2020.

The third school to change its name is James Monroe Elementary in Logan Square. It will be Logan Square Elementary. Monroe was one of the founding fathers and the fifth American president. He enslaved hundreds of people on his Virginia plantation and brought enslaved people with him to the White House. He believed that slavery was a danger to the union, but did not want to free the people in his captivity.

In a discussion about the changes Tuesday, Board of Education member Tanya Woods said “self-determination is important,” noting it is one of the seven principles in the African American celebration of Kwanzaa.

“This is a step that is not taken lightly, and it sends a very powerful message to the communities that exist today, as well as to the children and families who will participate in these school communities in the future,” Woods said.