Schools recognized for Chinese contributions

Three San Francisco Unified School District schools in Chinatown will receive plaques early next year to celebrate Chinese contributions to San Francisco and education.

Yick Wo Elementary, named in honor of the 1885 Supreme Court case Yick Wo v. Hopkins in which a Chinese businessman sued for the right to operate his laundry business; Spring Valley Elementary, the oldest operating public school in California; and Gordon J. Lau Elementary, named for the first elected Chinese supervisor in 1977, will receive the plaques by April.

Spring Valley is also the site of the 1887 California Supreme Court case in which a Chinese American family won the right for their children to attend The City’s public schools. The case is considered a precursor to the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision nearly seven decades later.

“These schools represent part of the many contributions Chinese people have made to the national civil rights movement,” Board of Education Commissioner Sandra Fewer, who authored the resolution calling for the plaques, said in a statement.

Superintendent Richard Carranza emphasized the importance of sharing the stories behind the names of each school.

“[The] SFUSD has a long and deep history of serving Chinese Americans, and these Chinatown schools and their namesakes have been at the forefront of leasing us toward the values we still hold most sacred today — equity and social justice,” Carranza said in a statement.

The Chinese Historical Society of San Francisco, the San Francisco Chinese Cultural Center and the College of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley will help guide the stories of the school’s namesake or its historical significance depicted on each plaque.

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