Sunday, September 2, 2018

Should the Dixie School District change its name?

Should Marin County's Dixie School District change its name?

By Wayne Freedman

Friday, August 31, 2018

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KGO) --

You'll see the name "Dixie" thrown around a lot in affluent San Rafael, Calif., on new schools and particularly on an old one. Few who live in liberal, Democratic-voting Marin County would say it's racist. But "woke"? Depends on who you ask.

"It's a reference to slavery," said activist Kerry Pierson of the name "Dixie."

"It is an insult. If you had the Hitler School -- it was named for somebody else named Hitler -- would you keep that? I doubt it," Noah Griffin said.

Both men are referring to the Dixie School District, with 2,000 students on four campuses. They, along with Dixie School Board Member Marnie Glickman, have issues with the name.

"In the 1860's, people in Marin knew what Dixie was. It was the national anthem of the Confederacy. The lyrics were on the front page of the newspaper," Glickman said

The issue traces back to the Old Dixie Schoolhouse, built in 1863 and now a museum in San Rafael. As the story goes, when James Miller donated the land and built it, he used friends from the south for labor. Miller is rumored to have named it Dixie on a dare, as a tribute to the south.

Democratic Marin County voted against the name Abraham Lincoln twice.

Marnie Glickman of the Dixie School Board and others do not oppose Dixie as the name of a museum. That's history. But they say having the district named after it is a different matter. So now they want the district to find a new name, a move similar to the removal of Confederate statues in the south.

"This is important because we are part of government. We are a school district," Glickman said.

A little less than 3 percent of students in the Dixie School District are African-American. That proportion matters little, said Griffin: "We need to be sensitive to all of the students in Marin County."

This issue is now on Superintendent Jason Yamashiro's radar. "Names mean something. History means something different to different people," Yamashiro said.

"Do you see a connotation between the name Dixie and the Confederacy?" we asked.

"I do," he said.

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