Racial Tensions Flare Over School’s Name

AP, December 21, 2008

Racial tensions may be the subplot in Carson as elected officials and community activists haggle between naming a new high school after a slain African-American Los Angeles police officer or labor/civil rights icon Cesar Chavez, it was reported Sunday.

In October, the City Council unanimously voted to recommend naming the school after LAPD SWAT Officer Randal Simmons, who died in a shootout earlier this year. But, since then, two council members, Mayor Jim Dear and Councilman Harold Williams, have had second thoughts, the Daily Breeze reported.

The Los Angeles Unified School District is building the school at Santa Fe Avenue and Carson Street, just over the Long Beach side of the city limits with Carson. Despite the tussle in Carson, the power to name the school rests with the school district.

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Simmons was black, and much of the support for naming the school in his honor comes from his church, Glory Christian International Fellowship, a predominately black congregation—in spite of the new high school which will be located in largely Latino community, the paper reported.

The issue may also play a role in the upcoming council election, as Julie Ruiz Raber, a Latina and former councilwoman is campaigning to get her seat back, the Daily Breeze reported, and has taken the lead in calling for the school-naming decision to be re-examined.

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Councilman Mike Gipson, who led the effort to name the school for Simmons, told the Daily Breeze that the school district already has a school named after Chavez.

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