In a move that was long overdue, the San Francisco school board finally got rid of a discriminatory education policy.
The city’s school board voted unanimously on Tuesday to repeal a rule that restricted students of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese descent to an “Oriental School” in San Francisco’s Chinatown ― over a century after it was passed.
The rule had been put into effect in 1906, during an era of growing anti-Asian sentiment. And though it’s survived through the years, the rule hasn’t been observed for some time. The board, whose district is made up of more than 40 percent Asian students, claims the vote was more of a symbolic one.
“We have this really dark part of history in our school district, and it’s important to acknowledge that happened,” Emily M. Murase, board member and a co-author of the resolution, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
In addition to rescinding the rule, the resolution called for the creation of a mural that will showcase the progress that’s been made since that tragic era as well as an increase in Asian-American instructional resources and library books to better reflect the district’s demographic make-up. It also pushed for further collaboration with Asian-American community educational organizations.
“We want to put some substance to it, which includes knowing about this history, knowing about Asian-American history,” Murase explained to NBC.
The repeal has certainly been a long time coming. Shortly after the policy was enacted, the Aoki family challenged it in Aoki vs. Deane, when they protested Redding Elementary School principal’s refusal to admit their child. The board sided against them.
The case drummed up so much controversy that the Japanese government expressed outrage. President Theodore Roosevelt ended up summoning the San Francisco mayor and Board of Education to the White House in an attempt to repair relations with Japan.
It resulted in the Gentlemen’s Agreement, which, in part, allowed students of Japanese ancestry to attend white schools. Aoki’s case was also dismissed and settled out of court. However, those of Chinese and Korean descent remained restricted to the “Oriental” school ― something that continued on paper until the repeal.
Ken Maley, a local historian, says that the repeal, though symbolic, was necessary. It is especially so for the students who would have been affected by it at one point.
“There’s no hiding from the past,” Maley told the San Francisco Chronicle. “You have to know where you’ve been to know where you are.”