Capistrano Unified School District leaders are considering changing the name of one of the district’s oldest campuses, its continuation school, Junipero Serra High School.
Serra, an 18th century Spanish priest, founded many of California’s Catholic missions, but as a Sept. 23 report to the school board said, descendants of the Mission Indians consider Serra and the institutions he guided to be “brutal and patriarchal” and “responsible for the suppression of native culture.”
The school board has created a committee to consider the name change. Located in San Juan Capistrano, home to one of the missions Serra helped establish, the school is sometimes confused with nearby JSerra Catholic High.
“While the Catholics, of course, revere him as a saint, a lot of the Native American families feel differently,” Trustee Gila Jones said at the recent school board meeting. “(They) feel their culture was destroyed by the mission system and Saint Serra, and are disturbed by the continual memorialization of the name.”
Before voting to form the committee, the board received support from the district’s Native American Education Program, a federally funded program that supports students of Native American Indian heritage.
Olivia Fu, a member of the student-led CUSD Against Racism, also voiced her support at the meeting.
“Junipero Serra, while certainly a significant figure in California’s history, was still a colonist whose legacy was devastating to native communities,” she told the board.
The trustees agreed the committee should review the district’s naming policy before beginning its work, and that students should be involved in the process.
“We will utilize the process the district has in place and make sure we are speaking with all stakeholders,” district spokesman Ryan Burris said Thursday, Oct. 1….
JSerra Catholic High hasn’t publicly expressed plans for changing its name.
“Despite the calls across the state to strike the name of Junipero Serra from buildings and topple statues erected in his honor, we at JSerra proudly stand behind the legacy of our patron saint,” school President Rich Meyer said on Thursday.
“While no man here on earth is perfect, the Catholic church continues to hold in the highest regard Junipero Serra and sees his love for the indigenous people of California as an example of authentic charity and a life of service dedicated to the well-being of others….”
The above comes from an Oct. 2 story in the Orange County Register.