NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - The superintendent of schools said the Board of Education is discussing the possibilities of renaming some of the district's schools.
It wasn't clear which of the district's 13 schools Aubrey Johnson was referring to during Tuesday night's meeting, but there has been a growing cry to remove Woodrow Wilson's name from red-bricked school nestled in the Edgebrook section of the city.
About 25 residents met in front of the school on Tunison Road to call on the school board to change the school's name. A formal request to rename the school, however, apparently has not reached school administrators.
"The board is discussing the possibilities of renaming some of our schools," Johnson said. "We have not received an official petition, but this is something that the board is considering, and we will do what we feel is in the best interest of the New Brunswick community."
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.
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 cries 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.
Last week, the superintendent of schools in Camden said Woodrow Wilson High School would be renamed. Also, Monmouth University announced it would rename the campus' main lecture hall.
An online petition at change.org calling on the New Brunswick Board of Education to remove Wilson's name from the school that is home to about 450 students K-8 has been supported by more than 280 people.
According to the petition, Wilson was a racist and a bigot who “acted as a roadblock to racial and social progress in the United States,” according to the petition. “During his presidency, Wilson implemented federal policies that subjugated African Americans and excluded them from jobs, civil liberties and prosperity.”
The Black Parents Association of New Jersey has also called on New Brunswick school administrators to change the name.
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.
It wasn't clear if a decision to remove Wilson's name from the school would have to wait till the board meets in September.
"This effort will never right the wrong, but it will bring on a change," board member Ed Spencer said Tuesday night. "In the words of Tony Judt, ‘The historian’s task is not to disrupt for the sake of it, but it is to tell what is almost always an uncomfortable story and explain why the discomfort is part of the truth we need to live well and live properly. A well-organized society is one in which we know the truth about ourselves collectively, not one in which we tell pleasant lies about ourselves.'"