Posted on August 10, 2017

Oregon School Board Votes to Remove ‘Lynch’ From the Name of Three Schools

Ashley Collman, Daily Mail, August 10, 2017

An Oregon school board voted on Wednesday to remove the name ‘Lynch’ from three elementary schools in Portland.

Lynch Meadows Elementary, Lynch Woods Elementary and Lynch View Elementary were all named after a local family who donated land to the school district in the late 1800s.

In recent years, school officials say they have received complaints from people who are concerned about the name’s connotation with lynching.

‘There were an increasing amount of questions and some complaints from families of color around the name,’ Centennial School District Superintendent Paul Coakley, who is black, told the Oregonian.

‘Our diversity is increasing every year, with families coming in from Northeast Portland and out of state, so [the names] needed to be looked at,’ he added.

It’s unclear how lynch mobs got their names. Some have attributed the violent practice to an 18th century politician named Charles Lynch, while other accounts say the inspiration was an 18th century Virginian named Capt William Lynch.

While there’s no connection to the practice and the local family, Coakley says the names have nonetheless become a ‘distraction’.

At Wednesday’s school board meeting, members of the community spoke passionately, both in favor and against changing the names.

‘I don’t think any of you have ever seen a picture where one of your decedents was hanging from a tree,’ one black man said to the board.

‘I’m just disheartened because where will it stop?’ Vicki Burnside told KOIN . ‘Any moment someone could be offended by any name. Do we keep changing the name of everything? That would be the question, right?’

A young student added: ‘I know the majority of you guys are white and it’s hard to know how that word could have an effect but it does. If a simple name change could make students feel safe, then why are we holding back?’

‘It was a family,’ said one woman who was against the change. ‘Lynch was named for a family, not an action.’

‘I’m just disheartened because where will it stop?’ Vicki Burnside told KOIN. ‘Any moment someone could be offended by any name. Do we keep changing the name of everything? That would be the question, right?’

David Hayes, Patrick Lynch’s great-great-grandson did not attend the board meeting but he has spoken out against changing the name in the past.

‘I think my grandfather would have liked me to stand up for the family name a little bit,’ he told KGW. ‘[Schools] are in the business of education so they should be able to educate people that a name and history have a certain meaning versus what other people have tried to turn it into.’

At the end of the meeting, the board voted unanimously to change the names.

Lynch Meadows and Lynch Wood Elementary schools will be chanced to Meadows and Wood Elementary schools temporarily, until permanent names can be decided on. Lynch View Elementary will be chanced to Patrick Lynch Elementary permanently.

Another board member, Pam Shields, says she feels ‘very comfortable’ with the decision because the district no longer owns land that was donated by the Lynch family. She also pointed out that the district’s high school, Centennial, was originally called Lynch Terrace, and that name was changed.

The school district has 6,000 students, 55 per cent of whom are not white. The largest racial minority are Latino students, who make up 27 per cent of the student body. A decade ago, the school district was 84 per cent white.

While lynchings were predominantly an issue in the southern U.S., after the end of slavery, they did occasionally happen in Oregon.

In 1902, a black man was lynched in Coos Bay after being accused of raping a white woman.

And in the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan drove a black man out of Oregon City with the threat of lynching.