Topeka students renew push for school to change name
February 18, 2021
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Students of a high school in Topeka named for an early 20th century Ku Klux Klan leader have launched a petition effort seeking to have the name changed.
An offshoot of the school's Young Democrats group is hoping to collect between 3,000 and 5,000 signatures on the petition. The effort garnered 1,000 signatures in its first 24 hours, the Capital-Journal reported.
The effort goes back to an October report by the Seaman High School newspaper, The Clipper, which uncovered that Fred Seaman had been an "exalted cyclops," or chief officer, in the Topeka KKK. Rumors of Seaman's ties to the KKK had circulated for years in the Topeka district before the student newspaper confirmed it through newspaper clippings from the 1920s.
While the online petition has received support, there has also been pushback from those who don't want the Seaman name to change. Sophomore Rene Cabrera said the messages from those opposed to a change have often been filled with hateful slurs.
"Being a first-generation Mexican-American, I would say it's really hard seeing the district move forward and accepting people moving forward if we don't change the name," Cabrera said.
School district spokeswoman Candace LeDuc said that while district officials have held discussions on a possible name change, the school board has no set timeline for discussing a name change during the pandemic.