PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — School officials in central Illinois have decided to remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from an elementary school and instead honor the area’s first black female doctor.
The Peoria Public Schools board voted Monday to rename Woodrow Wilson Primary School after Peoria-native Dr. Maude Sanders.
“The fact is we don’t have enough of our history displayed, talked about, and taught in our schools,” said Board President Martha Ross. “Our kids need somebody to look up to and it’s not just black kids, all kids will look up to Peoria’s first black doctor.”
District officials have been considering a name change since a former district teacher, Linda Watson, raised concerns last year about the district’s lack of minority representation. The school’s name came under scrutiny due to Wilson’s ties with racism and segregation.
The move will expose more people to Sanders’ accomplishments, said board member Gregory Wilson.
Board member Robert Davison Aviles said he was concerned about the precedent being set by changing the name. He voted to support the move but said changing the school’s name could spur moves to change the names of other schools or buildings that are connected with public figures with less than perfect histories.
He noted that Thomas Jefferson and Charles Lindbergh have local schools named after them and also have problematic pasts.
Board member Dan Walther was the lone vote against the change. He said he supports naming a school after Sanders but doesn’t believe the name of the local school should be changed.
The name change will go into effect for the 2018-19 school year.