PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Centennial School Board voted to change the names of three elementary schools in the district Wednesday night over concerns of offensive language.
The change will remove the name "Lynch" from two schools.
Lynch Wood and Lynch Meadows elementary schools will be known temporarily as Wood Elementary and Meadows Elementary, pending new names for both schools. Lynch View Elementary will be permanently changed to Patrick Lynch Elementary school.
In the late 1800s, Patrick Lynch donated a parcel of land to the district, which is why so many schools included his name. In recent years, district officials said some students and families had complained that the name "Lynch" made them think of the verb, lynch, and the racist connotation behind it.
“I don't think any of you have ever seen a picture where one of your decedents was hanging from a tree,” said one man who testified in favor of the name change.
“I know the majority of you guys are white and it's hard to know how that word could have an effect but it does,” added a young student who testified. “If a simple name change could make students feel safe, then why are we holding back?”
Others who testified, disagreed.
“It was a family,” said one woman. “Lynch was named for a family, not an action.”
“We were Lynch, we will always be Lynch in our hearts and I'd like to see the [political correctness] stop,” added another.
The great-great grandson of Patrick Lynch did not attend Wednesday’s board meeting, but said he had thought a lot about the issue in the past.
“I think my grandfather would have liked me to stand up for the family name a little bit,” said David Hayes. “[Schools] are in the business of education so they should be able to educate people that a name and history have a certain meaning versus what other people have tried to turn it into.”
After the school board voted, board chair Sharlene Giard defended their decision.
“We have an equity plan in place in Centennial and we are doing what we believe is right for our children,” said Giard. “We have children of color and we want to make sure they can cross the threshold of those three schools and be comfortable in their surroundings.”