Tierrasanta online push urges district to keep Junipero Serra High name
Three months after the San Diego Unified School Board voted to change the name from Junipero Serra High School to Canyon Hills High School, some Tierrasanta residents are calling it an unfair and hasty process.
Two Change.org petitions with around 1,300 signatures on Friday, they asked the district to reverse the name change, saying long-time residents had been excluded from the process.
“We had no voice,” said Janet Bartel, who has lived in Tierrasanta for over 40 years and is a volunteer historian for the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá.
Chuck Cox shares the sentiment and started one of the petitions. He has lived in Tierrasanta since the 1970s and says that the name and history of Junípero Serra is part of the culture of the local community.
Dad Junipero Serra, an 18th century Franciscan friar, came to California to teach and assimilate Native and Native American peoples into Catholicism and Spanish culture. He founded nine missions, including one in San Diego, and has been associated with the oppression of Indigenous communities.
Today’s student leaders have said they want to change the name of the school and its mascot, a conquistador, out of respect for those whose ancestors were assimilated and killed by the Spaniards.
Charlotte Taila, a rising senior from Canyon Hills who co-led the initiative, said the original idea was to change the mascot in light of other racial justice movements.
“We wanted to have a mascot that does not glorify the history of Spanish colonization and a mascot that better represents the school and what we stand for,” she said.
The new mascot is a rattlesnake, or rattlesnake.
Cox said many students and families in the Murphy Canyon, City Heights and Tierrasanta neighborhoods had only been living there for a few years.
“They don’t have the opportunity to soak up the history of local residents,” he said. “Foreigners were able to vote on a name change. Where was the opportunity for the voice of the rest of Tierrasanta? “
Principal Erica Renfree said in an email on Thursday that all high school students and their families, regardless of where they live, have had the opportunity to weigh, alongside each graduating class, new students and members of the the tribal community.
“As a principal, it’s my job to support ALL of the students. I did this when I facilitated a process to make them feel heard, regardless of the outcome, ”she wrote.
While some of the rebranding efforts have been a student-led initiative, the rebranding process is much broader than that, said Samer Naji, the district spokesperson who is overseeing the rebranding process.
He said anyone in a community can organize a name change proposal for any school in the district.
“We left the process quite flexible. Each community is organized differently and should bring it to the school principal, ”he said. “Along with Serra, (Renfree) helped expand the community contribution process. They had forums. They created a website and started petitions.
Renfree said the process took about a year, was covered by the Union-Tribune and other local and national media, and broadcast all over social media.
Naji said a poll asked students, parents, staff, community members and alumni to vote for or against the high school rebranding.
“We presented them with all the options,” he said. “One of the options we presented was to keep the same name.”
Naji said there was nothing in the board’s policy regarding rescinding a school name change, but he believes the process would be the same as changing the name of a school.
Bartel, the volunteer historian of the mission, said that the story of Father Junípero Serra is often misunderstood. He came to California to help people, not to hurt them, she said.
Catholic leaders also sent a letter to the district saying that Serra’s withdrawal was the result of “anti-Catholicism.”
Some petition commentators claimed the school rebranding erased history, but Taila disagreed.
“People think we’re trying to erase history, but our job is to educate people about what really happened to (Native Americans and Natives),” she said.
the the school website says its administrators create a “heritage room”, where 40 years of history will be exhibited.
Armando Abundis, an activist who is part of the Kanap Kuahan Coalition, said he was disappointed that there were petitions to reverse the name change. The coalition includes Kumeyaay and non-Kumeyaay activists, leaders and educators.
“Junípero Serra is a name that has been associated with many abuses against the indigenous population,” said Abundis. “I think changing it to a name that more reflects our time and pays tribute to the Aboriginal population is always positive in my opinion. “
Renfree said she thinks the name change will make people feel welcome at school.