Orange County elementary school changes names, cites possible racism

The Brea Olinda Unified School District has renamed one of its elementary schools because of possible racial connotations.

The board voted to change the name of Fanning Academy of Science and Technology to Falcon Academy of Science and Technology.

The school was named after William E. Fanning in 1970, nine years before Fanning died at the age of 103. He was a superintendent, principal and teacher in the district from 1914-1942.

But a few years ago, a document surfaced from the Anaheim Public Library, listing Fanning as a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

With few other details about the document, Fanning’s family says there is no evidence that proves he was in the KKK but asked his name be removed from the school anyway so it can focus on the students’ education, which is what the family says Fanning would have wanted.

His grandson says the students have enough to deal with during this COVID-19 crisis and do not need to be further distracted by the school’s name.  

“This issue about a name on a school at this time in a pandemic seems to us to be unnecessary to continue,” says William L. Fanning, named after his grandfather who he was very fond of. “We’re stepping up with courage and resolve to find a solution. We’ve suggested a solution by asking the district to return our grandfather’s name and legacy back to us and we believe they’re going to act on that and we encourage them to do so.”

The board already changed the school’s name from William E. Fanning School to Fanning Academy of Science and Technology early last year, after racism in regards to his name first came up, and the issue has resurfaced since the George Floyd protests.  

Fanning’s family says during his tenure, he led students through World War I, Spanish Flu, Great Depression and the entry of the United States into World War II. His family says he was a kind man and community volunteer who welcomed all children, regardless of race, during a time when other schools in the area were segregated.

“My family stands against racial injustice, we stand against people who seek to disrespect others, and we’re really concerned about what’s happening in the United States at this time,” says William L. Fanning.

“We’re hoping by stepping up and allowing for a quick and easy solution to this problem this week, that people who have been divided in the past over this issue will feel not divided into the future. More than that we believe that this gives an opportunity for the school to create a new space with a new perspective as they work hard to get students back into school.”