The San Francisco school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to remove a century-old policy requiring that Asian-American students attend an "oriental" school and members rescinded policies that excluded this minority group from the city’s public schools.
The decision was intended to officially strike from the books a rule passed in 1906 mandating that children of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese descent attend an "Oriental School" in San Francisco's Chinatown. The Gordon J. Lau Elementary School in San Francisco's Chinatown at 950 Clay Street was known as the "Oriental School" before 1924.
“Whereas, while the San Francisco Unified School District honors the Lunar New Year annually as a very important celebration among Asian cultures, SFUSD must also recognize the history, struggles, and contributions of Asian Americans in addition to holidays,” the resolution read. The document notes the early history of the school district was “marred” by racist actions starting as early as 1871 when then-Supt. James Denman closed the only school district night class offered to Chinese students since 1859 because he questioned the "legality and propriety of expending the public funds to educate these young [Chinese] men.” The resolution documents even more discriminatory acts against Asians in San Francisco, and then shows that according to Census data, Asian-American students now comprise the largest ethnic group in the school district, accounting for over 40 percent of the 55,320 public school students in San Francisco. The current interim superintendent, Myong Leigh, is a Korean American, and the city’s mayor, Ed Lee, is a Chinese American.
The board's resolution goes even further and includes a proposal to create a mural at a historic school to capture the district's "progression from its early anti-Asian history," and a challenge to schools to increase their instructional materials and books on Asian Americans, NBC News reported.
"We don't want this to just be a symbolic action," Commissioner Emily M. Murase, one of the resolution's co-authors and who is running as a delegate to the California Democratic Party, told NBC News. "We want to put some substance to it, which includes knowing about this history, knowing about Asian-American history."