The level of sensitivity in Portland, Oregon has reached fever pitch; three elementary schools which are named after the Lynch family, which donated land over one hundred years ago to build the first of the schools, are changing the names because the district is afraid the word “lynch” has racial connotations.
The Centennial School District’s Lynch Meadows, Lynch Wood and Lynch View elementary schools in southeast Portland will change their names before the 2017-18 school year begins.
Centennial Superintendent Paul Coakley, who is black and grew up in the area, stated, "There were an increasing amount of questions and some complaints from families of color around the name," adding that the name has been "a disruption for some students."
55% of students in the Centennial school district are non-white; Latino students comprise 27% of the total. Ten years ago, the district was 84% white.
Coakley said, "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.”
The mostly-white Centennial School Board intends to pass a resolution officially discontinuing the use of "Lynch" on the schools' signs, stationary, web sites and in oral references on August 9, according to Oregon Live.
Board Vice Chair Pam Shields pointed out that the district no longer owns land donated by the Lynch family, adding that Centennial Middle School has already changed its name from its former name, Lynch Terrace. She told Oregon Live that ridding the schools of their prior names ensures "that everybody feels like they belong to this district, and that we can put this potential negative behind us,”
Changing the schools signs will cost roughly $2,000, according to Coakley, who added that the schools have already been operating unofficially as Meadows, Wood and View.
The movement to avoid offending non-whites has precedent in Oregon; in 2013, the Oregon Geographic Names Board renamed Negro Brown Canyon in Jefferson County to John Brown Canyon; in 2015, the Oregon Board of Education backed the move to change the Native-American themed mascots at 14 Oregon high schools.
In 2015, students at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania demanded the changing of the name of the building devoted to the college’s former president, Clyde A. Lynch.