San Francisco school board: On second thought, about our school-renaming project...

As Wilford Brimley once observed in Absence of Malice — “Wonderful thing, subpoenas.” Faced with lawsuits over its historically illiterate school renaming decisions, the San Francisco Unified School District board will vote to cancel the project entirely, the Associated Press reports this morning. The effort had already been “paused” after the school board got an avalanche of criticism over its “shoddy research,” and also the timing of the effort:

The renaming effort also was criticized for shoddy research and historical inaccuracies. A renaming advisory committee wrongly accused Paul Revere of seeking to colonize the Penobscot people. It also confused the name of Alamo Elementary School with the Texas battle rather than the Spanish word for “poplar tree.”

Amid the outcry, board president Gabriela Lopez said in February that the process would be paused until all children were back in school. Lopez acknowledged in a statement that mistakes were made in the selection of schools and said that when the board returns to the issue, it will engage historians for a “more deliberative process.”

The board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on a resolution to rescind its January decision and revisit the matter after all students have returned full time to in-person learning.

So did the SFUSD learn a lesson? Not willingly, they didn’t. It took a judge to warn them that they could either vote to cancel the renaming, or he would order it canceled himself:

Since the renaming vote, the board has faced multiple lawsuits, including one from City Hall and the mayor to pressure the school district and board to reopen classrooms more quickly. Another was filed in March by San Francisco attorney Paul Scott, whose children attend public schools, alleging the school board’s renaming decision violated California’s open meeting law and did not involve the community.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman issued a ruling calling on the board to do what the lawsuit requests — rescind the vote and dissolve the renaming advisory committee — or show by April 16 why it shouldn’t be compelled to do so.

Wonderful thing, court orders. In this case, Schuman’s doing the SFUSD board a favor. In the annals of education, few organizations have demonstrated their complete lack of aptitude and temperament for their core mission than the board and its “renaming advisory committee.” They made a whole series of errors in research so basic that a middle-school student would have flunked the assignment. And even when those got pointed out to the board, they did nothing about it, as Alex Griswold detailed in January, although Griswold sets his tweets to auto-delete (you can read the text in John’s post, linked above).

Whether the SFUSD board sees this as a favor or not, they’re at least literate enough to read the writing on the wall. Schulman’s ruling made it clear they were about to lose, and lose big. In a rare show of intelligence, they’re taking the hint and retreating ahead of the catastrophe. This one, anyway. Wonderful thing, subpoenas …

In case anyone doesn’t get this reference, behold the most magnificent and convincing deus ex machina in film history. The line doesn’t quite come up in this or any other clip I can easily find, but watch the whole film. It’s worth it.