PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) --- Spurred by a complaint over the Quakers mascot of Franklin High School, Portland Public Schools board has announced new policy language that will make it easier for the district to change such names.
The new policy could be used for other name changes the board receives complaints about. There is currently a lively discussion in the Jefferson High School and Humboldt Neighborhood Association communities about the propriety of naming a historically black high school after a slave-owner.
"All considerations must reflect our commitment to eliminating systemic discrimination and its impact on student learning and educational activities," the policy language now reads.
A years-long effort to change Franklin's school mascot name resulted in a complaint to the superintendent last year. But Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero determined the policy language on naming school property didn't clearly include mascots, so the complaint was appealed to the school board.
PPS Board Chair Julia Brim-Edwards, who has been involved in renaming processes as a member of the board of trustees at Oregon State University, outlined the proposed changes to the policy at the Feb. 27 board meeting.
Two changes seem to clearly refer to the debate around the Quakers name. First, the board would make explicit that the name-change process applies not just to the names of school buildings but of their representations, i.e. mascots, symbols and logos.
Also, proposed names for Portland public-school properties could not be religious people or a religious group of people.
One of the Franklin complainants, Mia Pisano, is Quaker and objects to the use of the name of her religion being appropriated.
The naming policy also outlines procedures for naming new schools, particularly relevant as the district gears up to open two new middle schools. After consolidations in recent years, several schools carry hybrid names, such as Boise-Eliot/Humboldt School in North Portland.
Brim-Edwards characterized the policy changes as "updates," "not a wholesale rewrite."
Board members Rita Moore and Scott Bailey, however, suggested they might want to change part of the policy that hadn't been altered. A section allows buildings or parts of buildings to be named, at the discretion of the school board, in response to a "significant gift," such as a donation from a person or business.
As part of the changes, the school board would also waive the requirement of a fiscal impact statement if the name change stemmed from a desire to eradicate discrimination.
That prompted a discussion of who gets to decide what discrimination is. "We're bound to have disagreement on that," board member Scott Bailey said.
Brim-Edwards said some of that detailed direction would come from the district staff's process of developing procedure around the new policy, but ultimately it would be up to the school board.
"If there's four votes, there will be a (name) change," she said, referring to a board majority.
The policy is currently in a public comment period until March 20. After that, revisions may be made and a second reading is needed to allow it to become district policy. E-mail email@example.com to participate in the open comment period. Read the policy here.
The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.