CBE aware of William Aberhart high school name concerns

Petition launched to have the name changed; more than 300 signatures collected to date

Calgarians pushes the get the name of William Aberhart High School changed due to racist past. Photo provided by WIKIPEDIA COMMONS

Calgarians have asked for the community’s help to change a “racist” Calgary Board of Education (CBE) school name.

Some Calgarians are pushing the CBE to change the name of William Aberhart high school in order to no longer glorify figures of institutional racism amongst Calgary schools.

The history of Alberta’s seventh Premier has been identified in a petition crafted by concerned community members and past students.

The online petition stated that Aberhart was involved in crafting policy that harmed minority groups like the LGBTQ2AI+ and guided legislation to deport Chinese and Japanese minorities following World War II.

Currently, the petition has more than 300 signatures to change the name.

Students hope for change

Alanna Schwartz, a 2013 graduate from William Aberhart said she’s glad to see a change from her alma-modern.

“I think when I was at William Aberhart, as a student, there wasn’t a lot of discussion or awareness about who William Aberhart was as the premier of Alberta,” she said.

“I didn’t really understand what the implications of his political views were on communities that I cared about.”

Schwartz goes on to say that now, because society is more understanding, communities are pushing to have schools reflect that.

“I think, acknowledging harmful people and not honoring them anymore kind of shows the progress we’re making, it shows that we’re being more reflective,” she said.

“It shows they care about their diverse students that they care about LGBTQ students.”

Schwartz is among the many past students that are speaking up against placing racist figures as heads of local schools.

In the petition, class of 2014 graduate Catherine Fong said she was deeply saddened that this source of community pride is centred around a racist figure.

“I’m so heartbroken to learn that the name chanted at so many sport and music events belonged to such an openly homophobic and racist man,” Fong wrote.

“To keep his name plastered on such an amazing high school truly undermines the efforts of progress and dismisses the wonderful Jewish, POC, and LGBTQ2IA+ staff and students that have to re-enter “his” doors come September.”

How the CBE is responding to changing times

In Tuesday’s CBE Board of Trustee’s meeting Tuesday, Chief Superintendent Christopher Usih said they recognize the public’s concerns around racism. They will put together a plan to address these issues.

“There is a lot happening in our districts to support inclusiveness and the values of diversity. I think we recognize that there is room for improvement,” Usih said.

“In conversations with students and staff, in light of recent events. We understand we need to be a little more intentional in addressing those areas.”

The CBE responded specifically to changing the name of William Aberhart high school.

“We are aware of concerns raised by individuals regarding the name of one of our high schools, William Aberhart High School,” the CBE statement read.

“The Calgary Board of Education has a process of examining our school names, mascots, and logos. We are committed to respectful dialogue that honors the traditions of schools and the interests of all concerned stakeholders.”

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