Edmonton Public School Board trustees have voted in favour of renaming two local schools.
School board trustee Michael Janz put forward a motion, asking the board to consider moving ahead with a process to rename Dan Knott and Oliver schools.
During a board meeting Tuesday afternoon, trustees voted unanimously in favour of the motion which recommended the school division seek input from the community before moving ahead to rename the two schools.
The motion was put forward after Dan Knott School student Aimee Dorsey started a petition to rename her school because of his affiliation with and support of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Edmonton during his time as mayor.
Dan Knott Junior High is named after the former Edmonton mayor, who served in office from 1931-1934.
Aimee Dorsey started a petition over three months ago, calling for the school to be renamed.
“I just want to say thank you for listening,” she told Global News after learning of Tuesday’s development. “The more people that found out about it, they were like, ‘That’s not OK.’ And they would pressure the school board.”
EPSB chair Trisha Estabrooks called the move “a small step” in the right direction.
“Imagine what that feels like to be a student — for example, a student of colour — walking through those doors,” she said. “Feeling that that’s harming you, feeling such disdain… and anger even.”
The push to rename Oliver School comes alongside a similar campaign to rename Edmonton’s Oliver neighbourhood, called #UncoverOliver. Working with the Indigenous community, the community league started the #UncoverOliver campaign to share their findings on the history of Frank Oliver.
Oliver was a journalist and Member of Parliament who was the co-founder of the Edmonton Bulletin, but the community league said some of his actions are the reason it is pushing for the renaming of the area.
“He was personally responsible and an active perpetrator in chasing the Papaschase and the Michel Bands from their land.
“He used the Edmonton Bulletin to perpetuate a lot of negative stereotypes around Indigenous peoples,” community league president Robyn Paches told Global News in June.
Janz said the conversation around renaming the schools is an educational opportunity for everyone involved.
“They challenge our perspectives about who we celebrate, what blinders we may wear to the lived experiences of others, and provide us an opportunity to define better representations of who we aspire to be,” Janz wrote in a blog post about his motion.
“In both of these examples, imagine being the student who looks up at their principal, superintendent, and board of trustees and seeing them continuing to believe that Dan Knott or Frank Oliver remain worthy of celebrating,” Janz wrote in his motion.
Janz said the renaming community engagement process would be similar to the one followed when new schools are named. Janz said given the COVID-19 pandemic, he doesn’t have a specific timeline in mind for when the schools would be renamed.