SAN DIEGO — Local parents started a petition to get the name of Henry Clay Elementary School in San Diego's Rolando community changed and are urging school leaders to act now.
Parents, Brian Jenkins and Jerrod Tucker, have children who attend Henry Clay Elementary School.
"I asked all three of my kids and they have no idea who Henry Clay is. If the kids don’t know who he is, obviously the educators don’t feel comfortable sharing who he is. If we are not talking about it, then we shouldn’t have his name on the building," said Jenkins.
"Henry Clay isn’t someone that should be celebrated. He is someone that enslaved people himself. He was responsible for the expansion of slavery into other states and helped enact the Fugitive Slave Law," said Tucker.
Within the last 24 hours, the petition started to rename the school, and the Clay Neighborhood Park has amassed 75 signatures.
Jenkins emailed the San Diego Unified School District this past December. By January, the SDUSD Director of Communications, Maureen Magee, responded, writing, "I will be sure to share your concerns with the School Names Committee and district staff and will be back in touch."
Jenkins said he followed up in February stating that they are starting a petition but he says he has not heard back.
CBS 8 reporter Ariana Cohen called the district and spoke with Magee over the phone. Magee sent CBS 8 this statement:
"San Diego Unified encourages civic engagement around school names and other issues that affect school communities. We understand that some members of the Clay Elementary School community have started discussions about a potential change to its name. At this time, no formal proposal for a name change has been submitted to the district for consideration. If a formal proposal is submitted to the School Names Committee, it will review the proposal and determine whether to forward a recommendation to the Board of Education for a final decision. Please see our School Names Policy attached to this email."
Rolando resident Jenkins said action needs to happen. "I think it's really heartbreaking that there are children walking through the school gates every day in an institution that is named after a slave owner; somebody whose legacy is the Fugitive Slave Act, somebody who bought and sold 122 people in their lifetime, no child should be going to a school that has that man's name on it," said Jenkins.
Jenkins and Tucker to are planning to show their petition at the next school board meetings.