SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — A school district on the West Coast will change its name from Dixie after a battle that has pitched neighbor against neighbor.
The board of trustees for Dixie School District voted 3-1, with one abstention, at a meeting on Tuesday night to change the name by August 22, according to Marnie Glickman, one of the members.
For now, no new name has been picked for the district just north of San Francisco.
It will be left up to the people of Marin County — a bastion of well-to-do progressive voters and a far cry from the Southern states embroiled in controversy over what to do about vestiges of the Confederacy — to decide what happens next.
An advisory group will be responsible for soliciting ideas from the community to rename the district and Dixie Elementary School, according to Glickman. Community input would be important, since the debate has caused fault lines in the neighborhood, including name-calling, online shaming and slogan slinging.
“When we passed this, I was happy for our students. This decision teaches them words matter and history matters,” Glickman told CNN on Wednesday. “Our community will become more diverse and more resilient.”
The district caters to about 1,900 students in four elementary schools. It will cost almost $40,000 to make the changes, according to Glickman.
At a previous board meeting in February, the issue came to a fiery head.
Some argued the name was not about the Confederacy but was linked to a Native American woman whose tribe lived near the area.
One woman said the name brought back fond memories of warm summer nights and fireflies.
But many talked about the racist, violent era, which they saw as a blight on America’s history. They argued they certainly didn’t want their school named in honor of the Confederacy.
Thirteen names were proposed earlier this year to replace the name Dixie, which to many remains the nickname for the slave-holding Southern states that seceded before the Civil War. The board voted down all and ended up sticking with Dixie. On that night, one resident submitted a petition proposing the Sojourner Truth School District.
Those supporting the name change said a school building was given the Dixie reference in the 19th century to show sympathy with the South. But those who want the name to stay put argue it isn’t referring to the Confederacy, but instead to Mary Dixie, a Native American woman from the Miwok tribe.
Glickman told CNN the national interest in the story, combined with strong sentiments in the district, became worse after the meeting in February.
“I received a vile anti-Semitic letter that is now being investigated by the FBI, It was scary,” she told CNN.
Glickman said she’s proud to make sacrifices for justice.
“This was about the Confederacy and nothing more. It hurts people,” Glickman said. “We can choose a name we can all be proud of and that’s real inclusion.”