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State Legislators Defer Resolution to Rename McKinley High School

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HONOLULU — State legislators have deferred a resolution to rename President William McKinley High School and remove his statue.

Advocates for changing the school's name had pointed toward McKinley's role in annexing Hawaii to the United States in 1898 after the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by U.S.-backed forces in 1893, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday.

The bill would not have had the force of law, but would have “emphatically urged” the state's education board and superintendent to act.

The proposed measure was deferred without a public vote.

“With a very heavy and sad heart, we have to defer this measure today,” said Democratic state Rep. Jeanne Kapela, vice chairwoman of the House Education Committee and one of the sponsors of the resolution.

“While I do understand the reluctance of McKinley alumni to change the name of their alma mater, this issue is at its heart about advancing racial equity,” Kapela added. “Over the last few years, we have watched our nation engage in a reckoning with its troubled racial history, and Hawaii is no different.”

The proposal had strong support from the Hawaii State Teachers Association’s board of directors.

“There are a couple of problems with the naming of Honolulu High School as McKinley High School,” said Democratic state Rep. Amy Perruso, a high school history teacher and lead sponsor of the resolution. “The first is that it heroifies a figure who was really instrumental in making sure the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom was solidified.”

“Second, the statue of McKinley on that campus — he’s holding a ‘treaty of annexation,’” Perruso added. “There is no such treaty of annexation, so essentially it’s propaganda meant to make people think there was a legitimate annexation under law when in fact there wasn’t.”

McKinley's principal, some current and former employees and some alumni spoke out in opposition of a proposed name change.

“History is the most powerful teacher, and to erase our past is doing a disserv­ice to our country,” Principal Ron Okamura testified. “My question is, When does this end? If we change one, we need to change all places that are named after people to not offend anyone or hurt their feelings. It’s ridiculous. … My students will learn all sides of history.”

Former Democratic Gov. George Ariyo­shi, 95, also wrote a letter that opposed the change.

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