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Parents say local school shouldn’t be named after slave owner

Henry Clay Elementary is named after a former congressman who not only kept slaves, but was responsible for the expansion of slavery into other states.

SAN DIEGO — Some parents in Rolando are fighting to change the name of their local school. They say Henry Clay Elementary is named after a former congressman who not only kept slaves but was responsible for the expansion of slavery into other states.

“The school is named after someone who enslaved 122 people,” said Jerrod Tucker. He’s one of several parents with children at the school who have spent the past several months trying to get the name changed. 

But the group says they feel like they’ve been getting nowhere with the San Diego Unified School District. 

“Talk to this person, and they say talk to that person… and that person says talk to this person,” Jerrod said of the process. “Of course, it's frustrating.”

Jerrod finally got so tired of getting the runaround that he showed up at a recent school board meeting and shared his concerns during public comments.

“For decades, students in this district have been forced to walk into the building and wear shirts emblazoned with the names of men that would have seen them as less than human... and that needs to stop now,” he told the board.

The parents, who call their group “Not OK with Clay,” got a huge endorsement last week, a letter from San Diego City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera. 

It included the line, "Today, I request action to remove this shameful and racist image from our school."

 "It felt validating and exciting that this is unacceptable in our community,” said parent Brian Jenkins. “This is somebody that has the power and the capital to do this, so you feel heard.”

CBS 8 has been working for you on this story since March when school officials told us that no action could be taken because the parents didn't submit a formal proposal for a name change. The parents have done that but say they’ve still seen no action from the school board.

CBS 8 contacted the district again today, and they confirmed that they've now received a proposal. They said they are working to re-establish a School Names Committee, which will make a recommendation to the board. 

A school spokesperson said she didn’t know how long that process takes.

The parents feel like they're being asked to jump through a lot of hoops, which they say they'll do, but they also wonder why they have to be the ones to initiate change against hate. 

“Why should it be up to the parents?” Jerrod asked. “Why should it be up to the community? They know who these schools are named after. They know who named them. So they should be doing that work moving forward.”

WATCH RELATED: Rolando parents launch effort to rename Henry Clay Elementary (March 2023).


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