Despite the passion fueling the debate over renaming schools like the Ben Carson High School of Science and Medicine, members of the Detroit district school board proposed a deliberate, and slow, approach to changing any school names.
Just charting the path toward stripping names from district schools won’t begin until the second week of June at the earliest, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said at a special meeting Tuesday.
Last year board member LaMar Lemmons recommended removing the names of living people from district schools.
“Quite frankly, it is a political thing,” said Lemmons, a former Democratic state representative, of his proposal to rename the the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine. “We named a school after an individual who is in the Trump administration.”
Carson, a Republican and neurosurgeon, is secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
The district has identified a multistep process for renaming schools. First, at least one of six criteria must be met: the building must be newly built, the school would have been recently consolidated, the name no longer reflects the student population, the community where the school is located wants the name to reflect their culture and history, new negative information about the school’s namesake becomes known, or there is a change in district leadership.
The Carson high school could be eligible for renaming next fall when it will likely be consolidated with another school that has been operating separately in the same building. Vitti has recommended merging Carson with the Crockett Career and Technical Center.
Next, a recommendation to change a school’s name will have to come from at least 50 percent of the student body, a group of community members, the superintendent or board members.
Then the school board would vote whether to conduct a community survey. The results would be presented to the board, which would vote on changing a school’s name.
One of the city’s most popular schools, Cass Technical High School, is another school named after someone who no longer represents the values of the district, said Lemmons.
“Lewis Cass was a slaveholder,” Lemmons said. “But I would never recommend changing the name of Cass.” Cass Tech, an elite school that has long drawn some of the best and brightest students in the city, is beloved by the community.
Instead, Lemmons would like a plaque to be placed on the school “disavowing historic white supremacy.”
Bates Academy, named after former Councilman Alonzo Bates, who was found guilty in 2006 of fraud and theft from the city of Detroit, is another school name that may be reviewed, said Lemmons.