It Took 110 Years For This City To Abolish Its ‘Oriental School’ Rule

Enacted in 1906, the rule limited students of children of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese descent to enroll in the “Oriental School” in Chinatown.

Oriental School

Over 100 years after implementing it, San Francisco school board finally got rid of a discriminatory education policy that required Asian-American students to attend an “Oriental School” in Chinatown.

Although the city had not been strictly observing the racist rule for quite some time, it still existed on paper as a dark part of history. The move to abolish it, which was more symbolic than anything else, was not only long overdue it was also an important requirement of the time because America can definitely use a little acceptance and progressiveness right now.

The decision, put into effect in 1906 following Chinese Exclusion Act and growing anti-Asian sentiments in California, restricted children of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese descent to an institution that is now called the Gordon J. Lau Elementary School – named after the first Asian-American member elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Even at that time, the policy sparked severe controversy, prompting Japanese government to contact then-President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration. In order to men relationship with Japan, the former president convened city’s mayor and board of education at the White House.

They eventually agreed on Gentlemen’s Agreement, which partly allowed students of Japanese ancestry to enroll in public schools with white children.

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However, now, over a century later, the San Francisco school board has decided to commemorate the policy repeal with the creation of a mural to capture the district's “progression from its early anti-Asian history.”

The schools will also increase their instructional materials and books on Asian Americans.

“We don't want this to just be a symbolic action,” Commissioner Emily Murase, who co-authored the resolution, told NBC News. “We want to put some substance to it, which includes knowing about this history, knowing about Asian-American history.”

Murase is the board's first Japanese-American member.

“I would have been in one of those seats in a classroom in a school here in San Francisco and plucked out with the passage of [that] board action,” she said.

 As of right now, approximately 40 percent students in San Francisco's public schools are Asian American.

“We have been very committed to inclusiveness and diversity,” Murase continued. “In practice, the school board reversed its policy excluding Japanese kids, but just the Japanese kids. The point of my resolution tonight is to rescind that school board action altogether, whether it's Japanese, Korean or Chinese.”

Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters

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