NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Now that the New Brunswick Board of Education has announced it is considering changing the name of at least one school in the district, it raises a question.
How do you rename a school?
The answer is surprisingly simple, the board’s attorney said.
“It would be up to the board,” George Hendricks told TAPinto New Brunswick last week. “They own the property. They can name it what they want.”
The name of a school can be changed by a majority vote of the nine-person board, said Hendricks, although he said the move to rename a school has not come up in the 24 years he has served as board attorney.
Sure, there would be the matter of changing the signs on the building - there’s one hanging on corner of the front of the building and another one on an adjacent wall. Otherwise, a vote is all that is needed, Hendricks said.
It appeared that the call to have Woodrow Wilson Elementary School renamed had reached the school district’s administration when Superintendent of Schools Aubrey Johnson announced at Tuesday's meeting that “the board is discussing the possibilities of renaming some of our schools.”
Johnson said no petition calling to change the school’s name has been submitted to the board, but it isn’t clear that one would be needed.
The board could act as the Camden school district officials did recently when they announced that they were going to rename Woodrow Wilson High School.
Monmouth University followed suit on June 19, taking Wilson’s name off one of the most visible halls on its Long Branch campus.
Saturday, Princeton's Board of Trustees voted to remove Wilson’s name from the university's School of Public and International Affairs because of "racist views and policies."
"On my recommendation, the board voted to change the names of both the School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College," Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber said in a statement.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death on May 25, after he was pinned to the ground by a white Minneapolis police officer for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the call to drive out societal and systematic injustices has reverberated in city streets across the United States.
There have been calls across the country to remove statues depicting Christopher Columbus, Confederate generals and others who are seen by some to be symbols of injustice and racism. There has also been a movement to remove their names from schools and government buildings.
Wilson, the former president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey and 28th president of the United States, and other historical figures have come under closer scrutiny over the past few weeks.
An online petition at change.org calling for the New Brunswick Board of Education to rename the red-bricked school in the Edgebrook section of the city points out how Wilson “fought for Jim Crow segregation in federal agencies and encouraged members of his cabinet to implement segregation in their departments.”
On Tuesday, about 25 people met in front of the school in a protest organized by activist and advocate Tormel Pittman. They unfurled a banner with Wilson's likeness, calling for the school to be renamed.
The Black Parents Association of New Jersey has also called on New Brunswick school administrators to change the name.