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Alumni sue after this Catholic saint’s name was removed from high school


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John Burger - published on 07/19/21 - updated on 07/19/21

Lawsuit filed by alumni from Junipero Serra High School claims San Diego school and school board favor Native American religious symbol.

A group of San Diego public high school alumni are suing the principal of the school and the local school board for taking a Catholic saint’s name off the school.

The alumni, their families and residents of the Tierrasanta community in San Diego, represented by the Thomas More Society, filed suit in California Superior Court Wednesday against Junipero Serra High School Principal Erica Renfree and the San Diego Unified School District, saying they “circumvented the law in their rush to erase California history and the legacy of a Catholic saint.”

The plaintiffs, who have banded together in a group called “Preserve Serra High,” object to the school district’s unlawful action of renaming the publicly-funded school without any allowance for input from taxpayers.

The school, established in 1976, was named for Fr. Junípero Serra, a Spanish Catholic missionary who founded Mission San Diego and other settlements in what is now California. 

“This is another example of the ‘cancel culture’ mentality that radical leftist people in education are trying to force on an unwilling American public,” commented Attorney Charles LiMandri, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “Fr. Serra was a great defender of the indigenous people of California, and he deserves our best efforts to defend his legacy.”

According to the Thomas More Society, Renfree’s motivation in changing the name of the school was the trend of removing Junipero Serra statues all across the state, in the midst of protests in 2020 following the death of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

“Renfree’s actions have pandered to a false and historically inaccurate narrative and have demonstrated an unconstitutional animus towards this Catholic saint,” said Attorney Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “The Board of Education’s ‘vote’ on this name change was rigged – and based on false and misleading statements as well as manipulated data. The government officials conveniently changed the renaming rules in the middle of the pandemic, in order to effectuate their agenda, and left the entire community of Tierrasanta out of the process. The conduct at issue here violates both the Due Process and Establishment Clauses of the California and U.S. Constitutions.” 

The lawsuit pointed out that along with the name to Canyon Hills High School/Mat Kwatup Kunkun, the school changed its mascot from a conquistador to a rattlesnake. At a school board meeting, a representative of the Kanap Kuahan Coalition approved of the name change, and praised the school’s new mascot as a sacred symbol of her people. 

“By selecting the rattlesnake as the school’s new mascot, which tribal members have stated is a sacred creature to their people, and removing the name of a Catholic saint from the school, Defendants are clearly endorsing and celebrating the religion of one group at the expense of another,” the lawsuit charges. 

Aleteia has reached out to Renfree and the school board for comment. 

Religious symbolism
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