Topeka school board should change district’s name

Seaman school district is named after a leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Students deserve better



October 20, 2021 - 10:11 AM

The Seaman USD 345 School Board needs to do what’s right, not what’s popular.

Fred Seaman, who the school district is named for, was a known leader of the Ku Klux Klan. As a result, his name has no business being associated with a public school system in 2021. If even one child is emotionally wounded by such a historical dagger, the name should be changed.

At a recent school board meeting, the school district released a report after a months-long study into the name. The report included results of a survey it took gathering opinions of 3,557 people, with 56% of those surveyed being former Seaman students. Of those, 48% advocated keeping the name, 17% supported changing the name, 6% had no preference and 29% had no response.

Among the 47% surveyed who were Seaman parents, 53% supported keeping the name, 12% advocated changing the name, 11% had no preference and 24% had no response, the report said.

Those are pretty strong margins, and the respondents’ feelings should be considered. Strong ties and school spirit are associated with things like this. Nevertheless, we still think change is needed. The district’s school board needs to exercise true leadership and make the potentially unpopular choice for the greater good.

How can we expect our children to do better if we don’t set the example?

Board members acknowledged the strain the controversy has caused, as reported by The Capital-Journal’s Tim Hrenchir.

“It’s awful right now,” said board member and former president James Adams. “The tension is just a nightmare.”

Doing what’s right isn’t always easy. Doing what’s right isn’t always popular.

The Seaman school district has a long and proud history. Does that change with a name? Do the district’s accomplishments fade away with a new moniker? Not in our minds.

We’ve seen other local communities, such as Manhattan and Shawnee Mission, reflect about how their school names and mascots affect marginalized populations. We have a better understanding — or perhaps realization — of how names and images co-opted from Native Americans have racial implications.

A number of schools in Kansas have recognized this and made the needed changes, sometimes to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.

We think USD 345 should do the same. The name of a leader in the Ku Klux Klan has no business memorialized in our schools.