When Prince Andrew High School opened its doors in 1960, it’s safe to say the community of Dartmouth didn’t anticipate its namesake to be associated with a sex assault controversy decades later.
Now some members of the community are questioning whether or not the name should remain, with Prince Andrew, the third child of Queen Elizabeth II, intertwined in sex assault allegations involving a woman who claims he forced her to have sex with him on multiple occasions while she was a teenager.
“We need to consider whether or not, the name does reflect our community values,” Belinda Oxner, the chair of the school advisory council for Prince Andrew High School.
“My personal opinion as a mother of three girls, it’s hard to see them walk through the doors of a building that there’s a name of individual who’s been accused of such actions.”
At the end of November, Prince Andrew issued a statement saying he will be stepping down from public duties “for the foreseeable future.”
Andrew has denied allegations that he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, procured for him by his friend, Jeffrey Epstein. Epstein killed himself in a U.S. prison in August while awaiting his own sex trafficking case.
The controversy has sparked phone calls to Prince Andrew High School principal, Brad McGowan.
McGowan says the discussions are in the preliminary stages but he feels it’s important to engage the community with the topic that’s been brought to his attention.
“It’s coming from outside the school, it’s coming from alumni, it’s coming from people who have moved out of the community and are aware of the allegations against the prince and just wanted to be heard,” McGowan said.
The principal has requested a public meeting on the name change topic be added to the next school advisory council meeting on Jan. 20.
“There are two, what I believe, very passionate groups of people on either side of this issue and over the last little while, I’ve been hearing from the side that would like to see the name changed. I’ve just been getting enough calls that I thought that we need to ask the question,” McGowan said.
Oxner’s daughter, Emma, is a recent graduate of Prince Andrew High School.
She hopes that current students will engage in discussions around the potential name change process.
The Halifax Regional Centre for Education has a policy in place for renaming schools.
The goal of the policy is to consider whether the name of a school “appropriately represents the identity of the community it serves.”
In 2011, Cornwallis Junior High was changed to Halifax Central Junior High after years of the Indigenous community and allies calling for a name change due to the negative impacts Edward Cornwallis had on the Mi’kmaq people.