The Kansas City, Kansas, school board recently heard a request from a resident to change Washington High School’s name to Michelle Obama High School.
A letter was read at the July 21 board meeting’s community comments section from Amiel Green II. He and his father graduated from Washington Rural High School, and he is presently attending Rockhurst University, taking pre-med classes, along with physics and bioethics.
The school was named in 1932, and at that time the area was rural., Green stated.
“George Washington owned slaves for 59 years and the only people that were free in his lifetime were white land-owning males,” Green’s letter stated. Washington’s name does not reflect the students in today’s Washington High School hallways, he wrote.
Green didn’t think it would cost very much to change the school’s name. New signs, new sports and activities uniforms, and new shirts were among the items that might need to be changed if the school’s name is changed, according to his letter.
Green pointed out that the only drawback from naming a school after a person currently living is that the person could in the future do something stupid, but he didn’t think that was likely in this case, according to his letter.
No word yet on whether the school board will discuss the idea at a later date.
School board member Val Winn, a history professor who attended Washington, said today that the board hasn’t discussed the issue yet. Although there may be limited support at this time for that letter, there are also other schools that other district patrons have suggested should be renamed.
Dr. Winn said she has heard from residents who want to change the names of Charles Lindbergh and Frances Willard schools.
Willard, a suffragist in the 1890s, did not always support the right of African-Americans to vote, and Lindbergh in the 1920s was somewhat of a sympathizer of Nazi Germany, she said.
“The concept is something we seriously need to consider,” Dr. Winn said. “Particularly with Washington, it’s part of a larger discussion, as far as I’m concerned.”