Breaking News
More () »

Portland schools that take their names from Black leaders

Portland has a growing number of schools changing their titles in an effort to create a more inclusive and safe learning environment.

Sabinna Pierre


Published: 4:30 PM PST March 1, 2023
Updated: 7:32 PM PST March 1, 2023

Many schools around Oregon are being more intentional around their titles, with several changing them over the past few years due to the impact they can have on students.

The first example of this happening was more than 50 years ago. In 1968, a group of Black Portland students petitioned Portland Public Schools to rename the then-Highland School to Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, just days after the assassination of Dr. King.

In 2018, KGW had a chance to connect with one of those students, Ronda Chiles.

"It was what we wanted the legacy of the school to be, the history, and what we wanted kids to stand for," Chiles said.

Monikers have the power to hold both positive and negative historical ties. Some were named after people who built, advocated and participated in the construction and maintenance of systems that were harshly oppressive — the same systems that, despite their dismantling, remain evident by association.

During 2020, many witnessed the calling out and dismantling of some of those systems of oppression. This all was sparked due to the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota who was murdered during an encounter with police utilizing deadly force, one caught on camera by bystanders. All officers involved were fired and charged

The reaction to this sparked various emotions worldwide surrounding how oppressive systems can not only kill but harm communities.

As a result, many institutions, including schools, took the opportunity — sometimes under community pressure — to reflect on opportunities for improvement and growth in working to abolish any intentional traces of oppression.

If a student feels safe physically, emotionally, socially and mentally in their learning environment they might feel empowered to do well in school.

Two Oregon school districts took the initiative after various calls to action from students, parents and community members surrounding renaming their schools: Portland Public Schools (PPS) and North Clackamas School District (NCSD).

Here are four schools from PPS and NCSD that either intentionally changed or named their schools after Black leaders.

Before You Leave, Check This Out