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Proposal to Rename McKinley High School Introduced at Legislature

Department of Energy
FILE - McKinley High School in Honolulu

Measures to rename Hawaii's oldest public high school from McKinley to Honolulu High School have been introduced at the Hawaii State Legislature.

House Resolution 148 and House Concurrent Resolution 179 seek to acknowledge President William McKinley's role in the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom by returning McKinley High School's name to Honolulu High School. After passionate testimony on both sides, House Resolution 148 was deferred, or removed from consideration by the House Education Committee. In its testimony, the Department of Education pledged to "ensure all input is received and all facts are analyzed" on the issue.  

Jodi Kunimitsu is a math teacher at Maui High School and the state chair for the Human and Civil Rights Committee of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, which recently came out in support of the name change.

"Besides McKinley's role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom we also learned about the indoctrination of students during that time and how students were forced to basically pledge allegiance to America," Kunimitsu said. "Once the overthrow happened, the schools were where the government just started controlling how people thought by eliminating language. People were not allowed to have Hawaiian first names.

"The decline of the culture and the population just escalated form there," Kunimitsu said. "So when we think about it as a name of a school, it's a reminder of basically the horrible things that McKinley did to the Hawaiian people."

Kunimitsu added that the large McKinley statue on campus sends the wrong message.

She hopes that HSTA will be part of a wider conversation about school names, mascots, and symbols across the state. (Click here for more on this topic from HSTA.)

Drew Broderick has documented the campus' McKinley statue, where he is holding a scroll that reads "Treaty of Annexation."

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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