School District In Marin Should Change Its Offensive Name, Advocates Say

Jeffrey Schaub
January 15, 2019 - 8:00 pm

A coalition of parents, educators and civil rights advocates are urging San Rafael's Dixie School District to change its name.

Parents of students in Dixie schools delivered petitions to change the name of the district today, Martin Luther King Jr's birthday. The petitions call for a mandatory vote by the school board on the name change.

The district was created in 1864, but the origins of the name are in dispute. Activists who want the name changed, say it was a reference to the slave-owning Southern states while some who prefer to retain it, believe it was the name of a woman who was friends with the man that built the original one-room schoolhouse. 

Bruce Anderson, who is African American, says he doesn’t care how the school district received its name. “In 1989, I delivered my son to a school named Dixie with a lot of trepidation with that name because I was raised in an era where Dixie meant segregation,” he told KCBS Radio. 

The district is now composed of three elementary schools and one middle school that serve the communities of Terra Linda, Marinwood, Lucas Valley and a portion of Contempo Marin.

"STOP Political Activists and outside special interest groups from dividing our community," said a message on the website for We Are Dixie, a group fighting the change. "This is OUR Dixie, and it reflects generations of community and families, who believe in tolerance, inclusion and equality."

Proposed new names for the district include Big Rock, John Muir, Live Oak, Live Oak Valley, Miller Creek, Miwok, Miwok Hills, Oak Valley, Skywalker and Terrawood Valley.

“We have an obligation to teach history to our students,” Marnie Glickman, a Dixie school board member, said. 

A report by superintendent, Dr. Jason Yamashiro, estimates the name change could cost more than $18,000 for things like signing and website redesign. That number could be less, based on research about other districts, which have changed names, the report said. 

“As a final note, several California districts were contacted about name changes, and none suggested any significant costs, but it was not clear whether they simply did not track the dollars well, or that costs were indeed very low,” the report concludes.  

Written by Brian Krans.