An El Sobrante middle school will be renamed in honor of National Park Service Ranger Betty Reid Soskin following a vote by the West Contra Costa Unified School District's Board of Education Wednesday night.
The vote came after eight months of consideration to rename Juan Crespi Middle School. According to the district, social justice movements during the COVID-19 pandemic inspired the school to assign students a project researching their former namesake, a Spanish Franciscan missionary, and the mission system's exploitation of the Indigenous people living in California.
Eighth grader Anaya Zenad, along with faculty members, led a series of community meetings earlier this year and petitioned the WCCUSD school board to change the name, according to EdSource.
“I’m a person of color, and I don’t want to be treated horribly in school where I want to learn,” Zenad, who is Mexican American, told EdSource. “If that represents our school, then why would I even come?”
Principal Guthrie Fleischman told EdSource the idea for the research project arose last summer, in the wake of the nation's racial reckoning following the police murder of George Floyd.
“Students have always been told a very whitewashed version of history," Fleischman said. "Essentially we wanted to provide an alternative perspective ... A name can be motivating, a call to action, or it can harbor trauma and violence and abuse."