Confederate debate: Dixie School District in California votes to keep its name
A Northern California school district board voted Tuesday night against changing its controversial name following a spirited 5 1/2-hour public hearing.
Supporters of the Dixie School District’s 150-year-old name argued that it honors a Native American woman affiliated with the district’s founder James Miller, while critics contend that it honors the Confederacy and slavery.
Board members rejected all 13 name changes proposed in petitions, the Marin Independent Journal reported, and said they would allow more discussion at a future meeting. Alternate names included Skywalker, Terra Linda and Miwok Elementary School District.
The issue has divided residents living in a county just north of San Francisco where 85 percent are white and the majority of registered voters are Democrats, according to the Census Bureau and Secretary of State.
“Regardless of the history of how the Dixie School District was named, ‘Dixie’ has and always will be associated with the South, slavery, the Klu Klux Klan, cross burnings and lynching,” wrote resident Carole Mills in a public comment. “It has absolutely no connection or relevance to Marin or the area in which it’s located and if we don’t change the name, the controversy will never be put to rest.”
Resistors to the change, according to the website We Are Dixie, said they want to preserve the founder’s legacy at the well-respected school district generations have attended. They said his name is “being dragged through the mud in order to make a political statement.”
The debate has diverted educators’ focus on the children, according to the online petition, which has gathered 736 signatures.
“If the school board decides to not listen to the community and instead give into the loud bully tactics of the CTN group then it could divide and inflame our community even more,” the group’s online statement reads.
The San Francisco NAACP as well as local lawmakers U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and state Sen. Mike McGuire are among Change the Name’s supporters. Huffman told Dixie board members the name controversy cannot be separated from the resurgence of white nationalism in a letter. Renaming the district would cost about $24,900, the school board estimated.
Other references to the Confederacy in California have been removed or limited in recent years following public outcry.
The Hollywood Forever Cemetery removed a monument to Confederate veterans in 2017, the Los Angeles Times reported. In 2016, officials in San Diego renamed Robert E. Lee Elementary to Pacific View Leadership Elementary. California legislators in 2014 banned the state government from displaying the Confederate flag unless it serves a historical purpose.
Previous efforts to change the Dixie School District’s name failed in 1997, 2003 and 2015, the Independent Journal reported.
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