Guest Opinion: 'Guilt by association' logic poses dangers to schools, community

After renaming debate, parents urge school board to reject prejudice

We are a group of parents and community members who are deeply disturbed by the reasoning and tactics employed by a segment of our parent community who objected to naming a Palo Alto middle school after Fred Yamamoto, a Palo Alto High School graduate, survivor of the World War II Japanese-American internment camps and decorated war hero who died fighting for the American values that we all hold dear. To address these concerns, we put forth a resolution for the Board of Education's consideration.

Community members who objected to renaming a middle school after Fred Yamamoto argued that it would bring back painful memories due to their association of the name Yamamoto with World War II Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, even though they are not related. Yamamoto is the seventh most common last name in Japan and is shared by five families in our school district.

If there were a German, Chinese, Confederate or Middle Eastern historical figure who committed heinous crimes, does that prohibit us from naming a school after an accomplished American who happens to have a common last name that is similar to the historical one? The answer should be a resounding "no." We should judge a person based on their own accomplishments and not penalize them for the wrongdoings of unrelated individuals who happen to have the same last name.

The logic here, best described as "guilt by association," mirrors the logic that led Fred Yamamoto, along with 120,000 other Americans of Japanese heritage, to be incarcerated during World War II. That same line of reasoning is now being used to justify a "Muslim ban" with direct reference to Supreme Court decisions that have yet to be overturned.

The deployment of that logic in this campaign -- and the impact it had on our school board's decision-making -- is troubling, as were some of the tactics used. Those tactics included the distribution of unauthorized anti-Yamamoto flyers directly to students at Jordan and Terman middle schools on the Friday prior to the board meeting at which the new names were chosen.

There is no question that the Japanese army committed terrible atrocities during World War II, and we understand that this history has left some in our community with deep scars. We do not intend in any way to dismiss or diminish this pain, but we cannot allow that pain to be deployed in a way that perpetuates further cycles of prejudice and bigotry in present-day America.

In a community as diverse as ours, with citizens from around the world calling Palo Alto home, public officials should demonstrate understanding and empathy towards immigrant communities' past experiences, but they must not do so in ways that undermine our core democratic values.

Our goal has never been to reverse the school board's decision to rename our schools after other worthy individuals; it has been to ask the board to explicitly reject the faulty reasoning and questionable tactics employed by the opposition campaign, as well as undertake positive initiatives to create the conditions necessary to ensure we live up to our reputation as a compassionate, just and welcoming community.

The original resolution we proposed has unqualified support from over 150 community members of many backgrounds, including both Japanese- and Chinese-Americans, non-Asian Americans, immigrants and non-immigrants alike, academics and leaders from multiple organizations committed to the protection and advancement of civil rights. All have understood the dangers of the "guilt by association" reasoning and that the danger is not limited to the five families in our school district with the last name Yamamoto or to the broader Japanese-American community in Palo Alto schools. This issue affects everyone.

The full resolution is needed because the arguments made against naming a school after Fred Yamamoto pose threats to all who are commonly viewed as being "foreign" or "other," such as people of color, immigrants or other vulnerable groups. This has played out throughout U.S. history, including the targeting of Chinese-Americans with the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese-Americans with their incarceration in World War II, African-Americans through government-sanctioned segregation and Native-Americans through their mass extermination and relegation to reservations. More recently, the same rationale was used post-9/11 to justify the profiling of Muslims.

Our resolution recognizes that prejudice and discrimination is wrong no matter which group is on the receiving end. When we are aware of discrimination and do not speak up, the cost of our silence is borne by the victims of this discrimination.

The formation of a district committee to address human rights issues in our schools is critical. It is equally critical that we do not paper over the "guilt by association" line of thinking that informed the anti-Yamamoto campaign, sacrificing community values and norms in an attempt to "keep the peace." Appeasement is not without costs and consequences.

We believe that the full resolution we originally put forward is the necessary first step -- that by drawing a firm line in the sand, we have the best hope of restoring community norms and bringing about genuine healing to the community as well as preventing future harms that would be the unintended consequence of leaving this line of reasoning unchallenged.

We will be judged in future years on how our community and those who lead it respond to this. Our community needs strong leaders who will stand up for what is right even if it is difficult or controversial. We are confident that our school board is made up of the courageous, principled and sophisticated community leaders that this moment requires.

Michelle Higgins, Satomi Okazaki and Rika Yamamoto are parents of current Palo Alto Unified School District students.

Steven Lee is a third generation Chinese-American who currently sits on the city of Palo Alto Human Relations Commission.

Eimi Okano is a co-founder of the nonprofit Asian Americans for Community Involvement.

Dana Tom served on the Palo Alto Board of Education from 2005-2014, including as board president.


The school board will take action on a revised "community relations" resolution on Tuesday, June 19. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at 25 Churchill Ave., Palo Alto. View the agenda here.


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62 people like this
Posted by build a better board
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 15, 2018 at 9:54 am

"The logic here, best described as "guilt by association," mirrors the logic that led Fred Yamamoto, along with 120,000 other Americans of Japanese heritage, to be incarcerated during World War II. That same line of reasoning is now being used to justify a "Muslim ban" with direct reference to Supreme Court decisions that have yet to be overturned."

And the logic used by this school board to justify excluding Fred Terman from the list.

"Can we truly make a break with the name Lewis Terman if we retain Frederick? I think the answer to that is 'no,'" said Board Vice President Ken Dauber. "

Elections in November!

27 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2018 at 10:05 am

The school board should have done more outreach before pushing these names out. I bet the Yamamoto school name would have been easily approved if discussion like this article happened much earlier in the process.

48 people like this
Posted by omissions
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2018 at 10:56 am

Higgins, Tom and the rest:

If "our resolution recognizes that prejudice and discrimination is wrong no matter which group is on the receiving end" why did you only specify one group, the Japanese, in the resolution that you are demanding that the school board adopt without changing a word of it?

Thank you though for mentioning the Chinese, Muslims etc in this release but certainly they are worthy enough to be specified in the official resolution too.

Ditto the groups you don't mention at all - like gays, disabled, etc. Their travails deserve acknowledgement too.

21 people like this
Posted by TorreyaMan
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:10 am

TorreyaMan is a registered user.

Beautifully stated.

72 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:26 am

why are we spending time related to school renaming issue again? it was a waste of resource and energy while we have a crisis in something else within PAUSD -- giving our kids a good education.

101 people like this
Posted by Terman
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:28 am

What a bunch of hypocites. Tell me what happened to Fred Terman and why his name was removed?

The board created this mess and they had a resolution to rename in March. Most people against the name Yamamoto were not about Japanese name or Japanese people. Naming the school Unagi would face less resistance than Yamamoto and you know why. It was about the unfair treatment to the entire Chinese committee from the board, and people who racially discriminated against Chinese community from the very beginning, many of whom are actually from the associations named in your proposed resolution.

Just when the community is ready to forget about the ugliness of the renaming and ready to move on with our lives, you again try to disturb. Get real people.

20 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:36 am

This article, while full of emotion, does not have much in the way of substance where the realpolitik of the evolution of the United States is concerned. For instance—

> 120,000 other Americans of Japanese heritage

Actually, this is not true. About 30% of those incarcerated were Japanese citizens—people not born in the US, or naturalized. Suggesting that the US had no right to be concerned that citizens of the country it was at war with is ludicrous. There was a significant Japanese spy network in place at the time the war with Japan commenced. Japanese sympathies were not obvious I 1942. For example—a Zero pilot, whose plane was shot down while bombing Pearl Harbor, survived the downing of his plane. On the ground, he coerced some local Japanese farmers to join with him taking hostages after arming themselves. (See Niihau incident.)

This incident was published in the New York Times within a few days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s hard to believe that Roosevelt and his advisors were not aware of this incident, and considered it possible that similar support for the Japanese military might occur if the US mainland were ever attacked directly. Those American citizens incarcerated must have felt betrayed by the American government, but those in charge (Roosevelt, et al) really had little choice. The protection of the country as a whole was his primary responsibility, not the “rights” of sub-groups.

That said, it’s clear that this Board was overly sympathetic to the claims of those opposed to renaming a school after this fellow named after the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack. It is proven fact that the Japanese ran amuck in China, but Yamamoto was a Naval Officer--who had nothing to do with the Japanese Army’s horrific behavior in China (and everywhere else, for that matter). As painful as these events might be to those whose families were forced to endure this tragedy—we are living in the United States, decades after WWII ended. It makes no sense for us to create an environment where recent, or centuries old, prejudices are transplanted only to fester.

Fred Yamamoto’s service to the country cannot be dismissed because of his name. But Mr. Yamamoto was only one of 400,000 Americans who gave their lives during this war. It makes no sense to honor him, but not the others who gave their lives too.

111 people like this
Posted by Fred Terman?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:41 am

Fred Terman? is a registered user.

Why does this resolution, "guild by association" only discuss Fred Yamamoto? If this is a fair resolution taking views from the entire community, then why not also discuss the fact that Fred Terman was also not considered?

I feel that this resolution is double standard - unfairly applied in different ways to different groups based on the interest that is only important to the "concerned parent group". It only addresses one aspect of the pain felt from the renaming mess. What about the Terman and Jordan families in PAUSD? How would they feel to have the last names be associated with the eugenics movement?

If this is truly a resolution for the entire community, then please show it. As it stands now, it appears as a tool to serve the interest of a particular group in the community, and labeling the other opposing group as "racist". This is going to cause more divisiveness than inclusiveness!

26 people like this
Posted by Novelera
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:44 am

Novelera is a registered user.

The guest opinion was beautifully stated and makes perfect sense to me. I think it would be a very good thing to name a school after a man who went to Palo Alto schools and died fighting for his country.

90 people like this
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:11 pm

A few comments:
- The board created this mess. There were no Asian Americans in the renaming committee, even though Asian Americans count for almost 40% of Palo Alto population.
- The board rejected the name “Fred Terman” quoting the reason “last name matters”. In that case, no double standard, please.
- We only see accusing and labeling from this resolution. Please try to understand and respect others’ culture, views and feelings rather than accusing them, labeling them, or teaching them how they should think and feel.
- Many Chinese Americans have donated to The Yamamoto fund and are working hard on other ways to honor Yamamoto.
- School district should focus on more important education related issues. Please don’t waste more resources and energies on this. And this will only hurt more people and further divide our community.

11 people like this
Posted by this may help
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:20 pm

The authors mentioned online reports by teachers saying that students have been denigrating Japanese classmates. Anonymous online comments are hardly dispositive.

Hopefully district staff will cull through the list of complaints the OCR now requires them to keep and report out this Tuesday the number of discrimination complaints filed in the last year or two by school and targeted group i.e, Black, Latino, Japanese, Chinese, disabled, gay, et cetera.

That won't be everything but it will be official and will help the board decide whether the resolution's focus is too limited.

The community has an interest in these details too.

24 people like this
Posted by Accept the Change, Now consider the Response
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 15, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Folks, this goes far beyond process and a school named "TERMAN", it's now about how some in Palo Alto behaved when things didn't go their way. In the US, it's OK to disagree. Free country, but how one disagrees (especially in education with impressionable students) is what's in question. Social Kindness and Civil Discord 101 -- real kids were harmed right now by adult tit-for-tat. What precedent do we set? That's the Resolution.

My take, once they voted to rename, any name could be considered, and son of Terman didn't make that list. Too many other good candidates, period. Next, what was the community response? The Renaming Committee warned we could be facing racial discrimination and inequity head-on. For some, OK it fell off their radar, some moved on to battles against administrators until discovering they didn't like those new recommendations either. Their response was callous. Name-calling, strong-arming, just plain ugliness, here online, in the Boardroom, at school pickup, and now in classrooms? Two wrongs don't make a right.

No matter the political climate, it's still up to individuals choosing how to respond, react, and behave today. We enjoy great freedoms in America, do we use it or abuse it? Will Palo Alto perpetuate anger, hatred, threats, bullying, resistance, destructive attacks, overwhelming force, or instead constructive solutions and diplomacy? Think before you speak, act or post please. This is all public now -- the nation is watching and our children listen.

31 people like this
Posted by @Accept
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 15, 2018 at 1:04 pm

[Post removed.]

48 people like this
Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 15, 2018 at 2:27 pm

The authors only need to answer a few questions:

Fred Y is OK, why Fred Terman was excluded?

Bin Laden is also a common last name in middle East. Is it ok to use Fred Bin Laden to name one of our schools?

These are teststones before I look at any "beautifully stated" words.

41 people like this
Posted by Get serious
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 2:46 pm

- as stated in editorial- "
If there were a German, Chinese, Confederate or Middle Eastern historical figure who committed heinous crimes, does that prohibit us from naming a school after an accomplished American who happens to have a common last name that is similar to the historical one? The answer should be a resounding "no."

get serious do you really think we would have named the school after Gus Hitler, Freddie Stalin, Chuck Himmel or Tony Mussolini??? Come on... It's unfortunate that Yamamoto has the same same as Japanese Admiral who ordered the cowardly bombing of Pearl Harbor killing hundreds of Americans. Sorry it was the right decision not to pick him

Anyone else getting tired of this renaming debate???

54 people like this
Posted by Susan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 15, 2018 at 2:54 pm

If last name does not matter, then just keep “Terman” and “Jordan”. What a waste of money and energy to change the school names. If the last name does matter, then do Not use “Yamamoto “ or “ Hitler” as school names.

10 people like this
Posted by Madias
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2018 at 3:01 pm

When I was a small kid in the 60s, there was a gigantic brouhaha in the neighborhood. The boy on one corner house and girl in the other corner house fell in love and eloped. He was Kevin Wong, and she was Janet Jang. Him Chinese and her Japanese. I remember it was like a battle between the families.. Police and everything. I couldn’t understand why two Asian kids could not be together. My parents explained to me the hatred between the Chinese and Japanese.

We learn racism from our parents. Now we are passing it on to our kids in how we honor, or dishonor, races in our schools.

6 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jun 15, 2018 at 3:18 pm

Jim is a registered user.

Perhaps the Core issue is if and how civics is taught. Can folks set aside tribal behaviors and read the U. S constitution? Then Think about others and our nation as a whole?.

37 people like this
Posted by Matt
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 3:19 pm

I thought renaming is to address the concerns from one group of residents, but how can you ignore the concerns from another group? The issue is caused by last name, why don't we use geographical names instead? or just keep the name since you are not making anything better.

15 people like this
Posted by Accept the Change, Now consider the Response
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 15, 2018 at 3:45 pm

@PA resident raised 3 good points:

"There were no Asian Americans in the renaming committee">> do not group all AA together, beware overly narrow and overly one-dimensional portrayal. There are some commonalities and there are significant differences; diverse nationalities Asian Indian, Thai, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Pakistani, Japanese, Vietnamese; multi-generational Americans; different wealth and academic profiles

"Many Chinese Americans have donated" >> very thoughtful and much appreciated, but does not negate or excuse discriminatory behaviors

"focus on more important education related issues" >> 5 Foundations of Democracy, US immigration history, internment and human rights, anti-discrimination, defamation, equity, exclusion and emotional safety sound pretty important. Agree with @Jim this has always been about American civics (not names) in our multi-ethnic, transplant community

32 people like this
Posted by Get serious
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 3:47 pm


I and many others urged the board and renaming committee that if you are going to rename don't compound your mistake by naming it after someone. You are never going to make everyone happy and this is Exhibit A. But they didn't listen........ Have fun dealing with this mess and thanks for needlessly dividing our community with this whole debacle.

27 people like this
Posted by Harry
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 15, 2018 at 3:47 pm

Nobody said Yamamoto is not an American name. People had their likes and dislikes. There were many names on the table and people, including the board, was free to choose whatever they liked the best. How this freedom of choice could equate to the the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese internship, the recent executive order to ban immigration from certain countries, is beyond a belief of an ordinarily reasonable person because in each of the cases above, there was state action involved. In this renaming debate, it was people who disliked certain names. [Portion removed.]

72 people like this
Posted by Jordan Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 15, 2018 at 3:52 pm

"If there were a German, Chinese, Confederate or Middle Eastern historical figure who committed heinous crimes, does that prohibit us from naming a school after an accomplished American who happens to have a common last name that is similar to the historical one? The answer should be a resounding "no." "

Sorry, that's just silly. Of course the last name matters. It's got nothing to do with disrespect for the American person or their heritage - it's just that certain names get tarnished by history. Sorry that seems unfair, it's just the way the world is. There won't be any Goering or Mao or Stalin or Bin Laden middle schools around here any time soon either (and yes, there is a "Fred" of each of those on Facebook!). The names are just too distinctive in our country to pass the test of common sense. Even Nixon elementary school seems like an unfortunate accident.

Where there are Jewish communities, they will be more sensitive to certain German and Middle Eastern names; in Chinese communities, they'll be sensitive to certain Chinese and Japanese names. It's just reality.

Can we please move on? Aren't there actual education issues to focus on??

40 people like this
Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 15, 2018 at 4:28 pm

If somebody pretends to live in vacuum, I strongly recommend they to goto Jewish community to take a survey, are you okay with using Fred Hitler, an American hero, to name our school?

[Portion removed.]

35 people like this
Posted by Julia
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 15, 2018 at 4:29 pm

This is why you shouldn’t rename a school after a person. What a waste of money!

40 people like this
Posted by Tim R
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 5:20 pm

[Portion removed.] If these people really care about students' racial discrimination at school, they would have spent their time and energy at Churchill fighting the administration who threaten and retaliate students who report!

Their own CARE representative said at board meeting that only 32% of the kids who reported discrimination and bullying to adults got their issues resolved. Racism existed way before school naming, so don't use it as an excuse. If you want to help the unserved 68%, then go battle administration who permitted it to happen!

But instead, you use this so-call resolution to revenge the parents who pissed you off. You know this resolution is not about the kids. Kids experienced racism by other kids and staff at school, not by some parents who hold different views than you.

20 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 15, 2018 at 5:33 pm

@Accept and @Harry -

You wrote "At the last board meeting when this Renaming Resolution was proposed, one mother stated that she "would not want her Japanese children to be taught by Chinese teachers.""

You have taken this comment out of context. This comment was NOT made by a Japanese American parent nor a member of the group who forwarded the resolution.

It was made by a non-Japanese resident described in the Palo Alto Weekly article (Web Link) as "Rosemary McGuire, a longtime African-American Palo Alto resident and the parent of five graduates of the school district."

That one sentence was part of and connected to her longer comments about her observations of our schools and the school renaming debate.

33 people like this
Posted by Jen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 15, 2018 at 5:40 pm

It is very sad to see this mess still dragging on and on!
We should not use this very controversial name for our public school! Our community needs to be understanding the obvious reason which this name has brought up the pain of many our residents. It does not make sense and not fair that we HAVE TO use Y as our school name.
Please move on and stop this nonsense and stop further dividing our community!

21 people like this
Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2018 at 5:41 pm

Kudos to this committee of concerned parents and active community leaders for presenting this resolution. There is still an important need to acknowledge that the acts of division that were exhibited during the re-naming process were inappropriate (e.g. equating “Yamamoto” to “Hitler” in front of families with Yamamoto surnames) and have no place within school grounds (i.e. anti-Yamamoto flyers passed out to students at Jordan).

Palo Alto is one of the most educated and socio-economically advantaged cities in this country. This city is demographically changing, enriched with immigrants and their success stories. This is why the resolution is not just a Japanese-American issue. It calls for the inclusion of all races, ethnicities, religions, LGBTQ and marginalized groups. It also calls for a healing from what transpired in March. A better understanding, inclusivity, empathy, and kindness.

We are living in unsettling times where our country is led by a president and administration focused on hate and division. We must stand together and keep this type of thinking away from our community especially our children. Our schools are top rated in the state and among the best in the nation. We took the stand to remove two historic names from our schools that no longer represent our identity. Let’s forge a new stance and teach our children the values of multi-culturalism within a pluralistic community.

44 people like this
Posted by Get serious
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 5:50 pm

I really have to chuckle how all these smug, enlightened, liberal people that live in Palo Alto show their real feathers when issues like this come up. By playing the race card at every turn of supposed outrage they make matters worse not better, and this whole renaming issue pretty much confirms it.

43 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 6:07 pm

Get serious, how you could be less serious is hard to fathom. Your post is content-
free except to tell us you are irrational when it comes to any mention of Liberals and
you think the whole town is out to get you or something. You seem to think the
naming of a school is on a par with racial discrimination or health care ... it's just
a school and an honest disagreement. I really wish these rabid Conservatives, or
just haters of whatever they want to brand as Liberal were deleted when they post
such irrelevant nonsense, come on, this is just trying to insult and provoke people!

11 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 15, 2018 at 6:12 pm

Rename Palo Alto High School to Fred Yamamoto High School.

37 people like this
Posted by Our Voices
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 15, 2018 at 6:16 pm

Regarding the proposed resolution 2017-18.23 and the suggestion of a new standing committee, this resolution stems from the renaming process which began with an attempt to be sensitive to all of our diverse communities in Palo Alto, and an opportunity to highlight past wrongs in the name of one race's purported superiority over another.

It has now devolved into a process that seems to have strayed far from its underlying purpose, and instead of showing sensitivity to all, has resulted in many groups taking offense at statements made by another, and at the last school board meeting, as well as in the press, the labeling of one group as racists.

Obviously this is a sensitive issue. And Fred Yamamoto seems by all accounts to have been an honorable person who sacrificed his life for a country that did a disservice to Japanese Americans. And certainly, he and the Japanese community are worthy members of the community and deserving of acknowledgement, and of attention being paid to the injustice they suffered in the internment.

In the same vein though, all of our communities deserve acknowledgement and respect for the experiences they have been through, including our Chinese American community.

We suspect that members of our Jewish community, for example, might be opposed to naming one of the schools their children attend after a person w a surname of Hitler, Goebbels, or Mengele, perhaps, even though the Holocaust did not happen recently, or happen in the United States. We also suspect that the prospect of naming a school with those surnames might be viewed as insensitive to that community, since it would remind them of the trauma they and their family had suffered in the past.

One of our communities has raised similar sensitivities during the renaming process.

And a process that sought to be sensitive and respectful to all, now instead seems to have become an exercise in reproach, rather than an exercise in inclusion.

It doesn't seem promising when those proposing a committee meant to achieve inclusion begin by calling others racist.

Please do not accept the resolution as proposed, and also please consider whether existing PAUSD committees cannot be responsive.

If the Board chooses to proceed with the resolution, please then be evenhanded and please modify the resolution to include the following in the appropriate places:

Whereas the Board notes the hostility reported as felt by Chinese American families in the district following the recent renaming process and the resolution offered regarding the renaming process via public comments made at school board meetings, quotes in news articles as well as the recent guest opinion written in the local media;

Whereas the Board notes with concern the alienation of many of our families of Chinese heritage expressed following the renaming process and the resolution offered regarding the renaming process;

Please consider the perspective of ALL of our communities, even those who hold different views from those proposing this resolution and the creation of a standing committee.

Furthermore, PAUSD is comprised of many ethnic communities, whose students attend PAUSD, and whose taxpayers finance the district. Any PAUSD committee should derive itself from these constituents rather than from the ranks of other, outside, separate organizations. As well, a PAUSD committee should not have its path predetermined or restricted as to which organizations it is required to work with by any resolution rather than by decisions of the committee itself, which would derive from our diverse community. We ask that the reference that the committee will work with specifically named outside organizations be struck and it be clarified that members of the committee would reflect the makeup of the PAUSD community and be selected therefrom. THANK YOU!

8 people like this
Posted by densely
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 15, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Raise your hand if you think there would have been no objection if the name chosen had been "Heydrich" or "Beria".

I would have been happy if the old names had been kept. Especially Terman, so we'd remember who set us on a course of unbounded development with no planning and gave us the housing shortage and the traffic and the local inflation that's driving people out of our community.

11 people like this
Posted by the outrage
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2018 at 6:55 pm

It’s an election year so voters do not take the bait.

The pattern is always the same:

1. An issue is IDed that is sure to stir up emotions and divide members of our community,

2. Followed by the candidate's “outrage,”

3. Followed by a petition, letter or resolution signed by 100s of people from all over the US, including some civil rights groups and luminaries for good measure, who just happened to be reading the Palo Alto local news and reach out to the movement's leaders to see if there is something, anything, they can do to support the disenfranchised in the town that everyone in the world will read about because, after all, Palo Alto is the epi-center of Silicon Valley,

4. Followed by media stories about the hero aka the candidate fighting the rich on behalf of the poor and pushing back against the privileged to protect minorities,

5. Followed by an opinion piece or two so those who didn’t catch the school board meeting will are sure to be caught up in the outrage too,

6. Followed by …wait for it this Tuesday … TV news crews fighting for a spot to set up at the school board meeting who will put on that night’s news clips, that will perfect content for a campaign website, of the candidate expressing his indignation and sharing that our town is fortunate to have him and his followers as problem solvers in a stew of heartless others whose poorly parented and misled children attend the same schools as your kids do.

If the past is any indication, a district staff member will be blamed for mishandling this and pressured to resign too.

1 person likes this
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 15, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Maybe P.S. 3 and P.S. 4 would have been better.

5 people like this
Posted by Todd
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 8:48 pm

Consider the fact that Bobs comment has a dozen "likes" basically justifying internment with a well "Actually, this is not true. About 30% of those incarcerated were Japanese citizens"

11 people like this
Posted by Accept the Change, Now consider the Response
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jun 15, 2018 at 9:07 pm

Fact Check: The survey for school names is closed, but fine ones were chosen -- Greene and Fletcher. This Resolution identifies community behaviors that were harmful to students. The organizations named for the new Community Relations Committee do have representation "from the ranks" of Palo Alto taxpaying citizens or employees. Community education is needed because students learn values and attitudes from parents and teachers.

6 people like this
Posted by Whatsin a name
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 15, 2018 at 10:46 pm

And what about poor Kenny Hitler?

27 people like this
Posted by @Accept
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 15, 2018 at 11:07 pm

“This Resolution identifies community behaviors that were harmful to students.“

So this resolution IS about targeting “community behaviors” which offended your group, which your group deemed as “harmful to students”. But have we held a community meeting to discuss whether those “community behaviors” are more harmful than this proposal?

What the kids are learning from this is that one group of parents are fighting with another group, and that they won’t stop. The kids are more likely to learn how to fight than how to be kind and inclusive.

Please think about this, and please stop!

16 people like this
Posted by KimB
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Jun 16, 2018 at 1:12 am

Many thanks to the concerned citizens who have supported this resolution against discrimination. Many Palo Alto residents did not support the renaming to begin with, were completely fine having our middle schools named for white supremacists (why not, other places do?), and some apparently feel that racism in general is something people should just deal with and stop sniveling about, since we have more important educational matters to deal with. This is their right. I am glad to support those who oppose the ongoing bigotry in our community that was exposed by the renaming debate, as is my right. Now that we see clearly the ugliness that resides here, it should be addressed, which this resolution attempts to do. The reality is that history will judge this community. The resolution helps to create a clearer picture of what this community stands for. The bigots do not speak for me.

26 people like this
Posted by rallying call for a Palo Alto race war
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2018 at 6:50 am


Yours are extremely strong words which you undoubtedly selected with great care.

Your calling upon history to "judge" our town sounds like a rallying call for a race war in Palo Alto which may explain why you chose to call those who disagree with the resolution, for any reason, names like "white supremacist" supporters, "racists" and "bigots" when you could have taken the high road and debated the merits of this resolution instead.

It is so unfortunate when intelligent people resort to name calling knowing that it deepens the divides when statesmanship, tact, and diplomacy is hard work but needed if the objective is to bring people together. Think Trump vs. Clinton.

FWIW I agree with you that our town could do more, much more, but I disagree with the resolution because it reads as if the only disenfranchised group in town are the Japanese and that is because of one poorly handled matter.

Not to be disrespectful because I am certain that Japanese families are hurt by this, but the resolution's narrow focus is a non-starter for me. African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, and gays are being maligned daily in our country and subject to slights in our schools too. They all absolutely deserve a mention in this resolution too.

9 people like this
Posted by spot on
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2018 at 9:25 am

The outrage,

Spot on.

A similar thing happened in the 2014 school board election when Ken Dauber narrowly crossed the line to a win.

Dauber framed his campaign with 1. an inspiring message that "We Can Do Better Palo Alto" and 2. a choice between the enlightened aka Ken, the defender of civil rights, or those who support the oppressors.

It was simplistic and opportunistic but it worked, so it is no surprise that it is deja vu all over again here in the march up to this November's school board election.

We will see if divisive, emotion and rage based politics still works in our progressive town.

The difference this time is that local voters voted against Trump's 1. similar "Make America Great Again" slogan, and 2. amplifying racial and religious divides to secure the few extra votes he needed to win.

16 people like this
Posted by Dauber endorsers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2018 at 1:43 pm

That the school board's rejection of a Japanese name is getting so much ink is stunning since there have been many far more egregious affronts involving far more marginalized groups that didn't get a drop of ink in the press.

Not that it isn't of concern. It is. But the context is important. A name favored by some was rejected and two other exemplary heroes in our community - a female environmentalist and an African American entrepreneur - were selected instead. Six of the 8 names put forward were not selected for reasons good and bad. Those not selected likely felt honored, not slighted, to have made the short list.
Web Link

Wondering what could be driving this to headline news placement, I googled the first name on this opinion piece to see if there were any hints. What appeared is that she endorsed Ken Dauber for school board in 2014.

It turns out that several of the authors of this opinion show up on Ken Dauber's endorser list.

So does the woman who called a race "racists" in the San Jose Mercury a few months ago. "Chinese-American community...I’m appalled that their racism is tolerated...” Web Link

She not only endorsed Ken Dauber, she help design and run his campaign serving as a member of his official Campaign Committee.

5 people like this
Posted by A former district parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 16, 2018 at 2:58 pm

This entire episode is ugly and silly.
Fred Yamamoto of Palo Alto, Ca school does not equal Admiral Yamamoto of Japan school.
Those with common sense well know this.

Meanwhile, I perceive ultra virtue-signaling by those with nothing better to do than play the race card.

I know it’s sadly a cool thing to huff and puff and claim racism at each and every turn nowadays - what a sad commentary on our society and local region.

If pressed, I have a variety of experiences I can share, in brief, off the top of my mind:
As a white person (I will leave ethnicity specifics undisclosed), I have a background without ANY slavery or reason to feel guilty, yet some of another ethnic group have given me hateful messages, staring at some of my physical characteristics, excluding one for career networking, etc. based on my being a “white.” And that’s considered just fine. I am often given the message by school officials and government officials that I should feel “guilty.” I must “pay.”
As a matter of fact, I recall being shoved by several kids of another ethnicity while in school here, a protected one.
Why should that have to be tolerated? I have more illustrations, and I am certain everyone can bring up incidents and slights AND systemic challenges that could be considered discriminatory - or not.
Get over it.
Most people in this world are decent and focused on bigger issues.

I would keep the school names as they were.

22 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 16, 2018 at 5:14 pm

While the renaming process is now a done-did-deal, the anti-Yamamoto campaign itself unmasked dangerous reasoning that’s strong in this community. Ironically, the inherent danger of this kind of reasoning applies to all people who can be considered “other” by those in power, including those of Chinese heritage.

Furthermore, the Board is complicit by remaining publicly silent regarding their stance on this reasoning after voting against Yamamoto. While it’s understandable why they didn't choose Yamamoto (to avoid further division), their silence on this other point says volumes. Adults, and worse still, children, are learning from observing.

The aftermath from the renaming process brought to light many recent acts of prejudice in PAUSD, including those against Blacks, Muslims and other marginalized groups. We need to re-establish the values of respect and empathy for our different races and backgrounds. These values were at least fostered and purported by PAUSD in the late 70s and into the 80s. Back then, PAUSD had an office to promote multiculturalism at 25 Churchill. As the years passed and the civil rights and fights for equality dimmed in the rear-view mirror, the push for these values dropped off as a priority.

If we sit on our hands, this problem will only get worse, and in time, there will be another battle with another theme that rears its ugly head in PAUSD. Step up with courage, Board, and vote for this resolution that offers a real solution to this problem that pervades PAUSD!

19 people like this
Posted by @feeling_not_included
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2018 at 6:37 pm

I have bad memories of a country where I come from where they'd name buildings after famous people and then when there was a regime change, they'd scrap the old names and start over with 'new' heroes. Fast forward to this community, when demographic changes, the old names become taboo and we must rename institutions to appease to the new demography. That is of course fine as long as we have a clear majority which is not the case here. We have people from all over the world. Each time one ethnic group is favored (or become louder), the others feel neglected and feel depressed or become combative; as each group has its own heroes and demons. The conflict goes on and magnified by politicians and media. And this is not a healthy state of mind in the community.

I think an important reason for the success of American experience was assimilation and not multi-culturalism. But that is no longer a 'progressive' idea and is demonized by all sort of ugly terms such as racism, elitism, non-inclusiveness, and so on. (Sorry I sound a little like Trump as much as I want to keep my distance from him!!)

Going back to school naming, can you please just resort to names in nature like green valley, sunny meadow, hidden gem, or whatever, and spare us from agony of feeling not being included.

7 people like this
Posted by who is confused
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2018 at 10:55 pm


What do you mean "by those in power, including those of Chinese heritage"? Last I looked none of the PAUSD's power holders, the school board members and Superintendents, are of Chinese heritage. They are all Caucasians (McGee, Austin, Dauber, Collins, Godfrey, Caswell and DiBrienza). Did you mean to disparage the White race instead of the Chinese one?

And criticizing the board for being "silent" on this resolution? Really? The board discussed this resolution at the last board meeting and has it on the agenda again for the next one. They have not been silent unless by "silent" you mean they did not say what you wanted to hear.

6 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Parent
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 16, 2018 at 11:07 pm

@who is confused -

You are misinterpreting the sentence.

It is meant to say: "Ironically, the inherent danger of this kind of reasoning applies to all people, including those of Chinese heritage, who can be considered “other” by those in power."

14 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 16, 2018 at 11:49 pm

@who is confused - @Palo Alto Parent corrects my grammar (thank you) and yes, this correction is what I mean. Apologies for the misleading sentence. There's no editing feature, so I cannot correct.

Additionally, I sincerely did not mean to disparage any race, including those who are Caucasian. The simple fact is that those who have been able to execute injustices on marginalized people are those in power. And many marginalized people, although certainly not all, have been people of color, which includes those of Chinese heritage. The irony of this whole issue is that today, those of Chinese AND Japanese descent are at risk of being viewed as the "other." Therefore, the two groups are part of the same larger group.

Regarding the other point, while the Board has indeed voted to consider the resolution put forth, to my knowledge, none of the members has stated a public/official opinion about the tactics and reasoning behind the anti-Yamamoto campaign. From my view, this lack of acknowedgement has been the crux of the issue (NOT whose name was chosen for the school).

11 people like this
Posted by Public Education Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 17, 2018 at 12:01 am

@Our Voices states “Furthermore, PAUSD is comprised of many ethnic communities, whose students attend PAUSD, and whose taxpayers finance the district”.
I am fascinated by the focus on “taxpayers”. Actually our schools are set up to serve students, not taxpayers. And our students should surely not be viewed as consumers of a product paid for by their tax paying parents - that is not the purpose or mission of PUBLIC EDUCATION in a DEMOCRACY.
And I certainly hope that “Our Voices” does not believe that only taxpayers should have a voice. What about non-property tax paying renters OR or our Voluntary Transfer Program students who attend our schools as part of a court ordered racial desegregation program? Do they count? Do they have a voice? I hope so but the language used by Our Voices suggests otherwise.
It is also very interesting that “Our Voices” is questioning the inclusion of community organizations who wish to be a part of the valuable work of the committee. Does she really believe that Palo Altans can only learn from those who reside inside the borders of Palo Alto, that community organizations that cover the Bay Area cannot make a valuable contribution or play an advisory role? Not to forget that organizations like Asian Americans for Community Involvement was founded by Palo Altans who still reside in Palo Alto and has been a trusted community partner for PAUSD for many years.

3 people like this
Posted by who is confused2
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2018 at 7:55 am


"a public/official opinion about the tactics and reasoning behind the anti-Yamamoto campaign. From my view, this lack of acknowedgement has been the crux of the issue"

I see.

You said that the "crux" isn't to form a committee to address discrimination in our community and schools.

The "crux" is to shame some parents, apparently with reference to their race.

Is that because this incident, people exercising their right to react to a proposed name with words that did not settle well with you, is the worst example of bias our community has seen?

It isn't.

Michele Higgins, author of this opinion, reported a district log full of discrimination complaints including racist graffiti in middle school bathrooms that had "words and symbols that are so abhorrent" she couldn't repeat their content publicly. Web Link

What about those?

We don't elect board members to publicly shame parents.

I see in the "Dauber endorser" post above that shaming may please that board member's base but shaming further divides people and so does absolutely nothing to solve our district's discrimination problem which, to me, is the "crux" of the resolution.

10 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 17, 2018 at 9:44 am

@who is confused2

It is wonderful that the group who opposed the name in March had their voices heard. Most former and current parents I talk with have never even attended a Board meeting or written the Board. In this sense, those who opposed model the way for the rest.

What wasn't all right was the danger in the reasoning and tactics employed, and if left unchecked, it will be applied again, by who knows what group. Every time this kind of reasoning is used, it reinforces for others who hear. Do you have a solution? Or maybe you don't see an issue with the reasoning opposing the name. If that's the case, that's a whole different issue.

What we need here are solutions. As I said in my first post, the resolution needs to be passed to address the divisions among the groups in PAUSD that go way beyond even those involved in the renaming case.

12 people like this
Posted by who is confused3
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2018 at 10:57 am


You didn't respond to the questions.

As for yours, the resolution's singular focus on the Japanese renaming issue, without delineating the indignations others in our district have faced, is the model we do not want our district to follow.

It is admirable that it was the impetus for the resolution.

But the resolution is the formal word on why a committee is needed which the resolution backers admit, outside the resolution, is because many groups are marginalized.

The resolution should not just mention the race fortunate enough to have an organized group advocating for them.

I do get it. You want board members to pass judgement on parents' public comments. I don't see that as their place or role. The resolution backers, with the help of the Weekly, have done an excellent job of getting their messages out to a vastly wider audience than the small handful who might be watching the board meeting during summer vacation.

14 people like this
Posted by stop_changing_names
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Please stop changing names! None of this discussion is constructive. Please everyone keep your heroes (and bad guys) to yourself in this diverse community. And if you have a really good reason to change a name, rename it to a flower so we can direct the city energy to more universal issues like affordability, noise pollution, environment, drought, homelessness, and so on.

14 people like this
Posted by Parent of Two
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 17, 2018 at 1:23 pm

Who thinks the board should pass a resolution to reflect what mistakes they made to make such a mess?

No Asian American member in the renaming committee.

Exclude surname of Terman and Jordan.

Refuse to learn lessons from past and stick with human names.

The waste of money and time, the division in the community are all natural outcome of these mistakes.

Board members, take the courage to look inward to see if you can do better job.

21 people like this
Posted by Supporter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2018 at 3:39 pm

All Yamamotos are not guilty of the sins committed by one Yamamoto. That sort of thinking comes from the middle ages. Human beings are distinct individuals. Even Yamamotos who are directly related to the bad Yamamoto should be judged on their merits of their individual lives. This resolution condemns the "guilt by association" reasoning that was employed during the debates on the renaming of the schools. I support the resolution in its entirety.

20 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2018 at 4:46 pm

@ Supporter

I think most everyone would agree that the individual should not be judged by the actions of another. This whole argument stems from the school board using "Guilt by Association" to not even considering anyone with the last name of Terman or Jordan. People looked at that, and rightly so, called out the district on the double standard of using "Guilt by Association" to eliminate some people but not others. If the school board didn't set that precedent the whole argument against Fred Yamamoto disappears.

20 people like this
Posted by Supporter
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2018 at 6:28 pm

@Member: I am not completely aware of what the board did earlier. If they did as you say, they should definitely acknowledge that they erred. It still does not make it okay to tie Fred Yamamoto to the Japanese admiral. "Guilt by association" is not okay under any circumstance.

4 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 17, 2018 at 7:33 pm


I agree, Its a shame that it has been handled in the way that it was. I don't think that anyone is truly happy with the outcome.

22 people like this
Posted by What Are We Doing?
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2018 at 11:21 am

While the adults squabble and try to prove their point. PAUSD lost valuable resources battling this out instead of focusing on our children's education. After the words "Jordan" and "Terman" have been removed from our school walls, I'm afraid future generations will not have learned anything from this.

Students in the US demonstrate lackluster knowledge in US and World history. Please move on. Move forward. Starting teaching so our kids can learn.

18 people like this
Posted by Get serious
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2018 at 5:30 pm

@ what are we doing?

well said and I couldn't agree more. To be blunt kids don't care who their schools are named after and certainly the same goes for most parents. I had no idea who Jordan or Terman was before this whole debate, sorry for my ignorance but I have a job, kids to raise and elderly parents to help. For those who think renaming a school will change the world are sorely naive, and look what angst it's created.

18 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2018 at 9:47 pm

Kudos to the article. The central issue that it addresses is that
guilt by association is not morally right. It may be popular, it may be
non-controversial and expedient, but that does not make it right.

It is wise to acknowledge this central truth, without considering it as a personal affront to any particular community.

There have been several mistakes along the way, but that should not take
away from this central message.

17 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park, Jordan, Paly High Alumni
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 19, 2018 at 11:05 am

I feel disappointed that PAUSD is allowing a fellow Palo Altan, who grew up in the city, went through the Palo Alto school system and died for this country, to go unrecognized for issues that have nothing to do with him.

I have told my son many times to judge a person by their actions and not by their: race, gender, abiliy, orientation, country of origin etc...

This was a value upheld by PAUSD when I grew up there and went through the school system.

Did this change?

17 people like this
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 19, 2018 at 1:04 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

Thank you for this strong statement.

And for those of you still arguing that who schools are named for doesn't matter, I point you to Jackson, Mississippi, where the former Jefferson Davis Elementary School will become the Barack H. Obama Elementary School next school year. It makes a world of difference to the students that they can now proudly proclaim the name of their school.

14 people like this
Posted by Chinese American Dad
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 19, 2018 at 10:46 pm

I am a Chinese American dad of three and still in schock and extremely embarrassed as to how the city council was so scared and changed their minds by a particular group of people. I was all in favor of renaming the school after Fred Yamamoto, a clearly deserving individual who had no blood ties to the "other" Yamamoto. While it was stated that a large number of Chinese people have donated to the recent scholarship fund named after Fred Yamamoto, some of those who donated were individuals who spoke against the renaming.
Will those Chinese families who voted against the Yamamoto renaming be eligible to receive this scholarship?

9 people like this
Posted by European vs Asian Last Names
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2018 at 9:59 am

Unlike the diversity in European last names, many Asian countries have fewer last names.
To avoid one Asian last name because one infamous person history had it is very short sited.

What next, should every Kim in America be forever banned from being used on public buildings because the leader of North Korea also has that last name?

As an Asian American myself, any Asian American name on a public building is a powerful statement to children and the community that America's history is intertwined with many Asian Americans.

This episode only furthers the unfortunate stereotype of Asians being perpetually foreign and other. American hero Fred Yamamoto being prejudiced simply for his last name, a real shame for a progressive community. Palo Alto should demand more cultural nimbleness from their school board.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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