Activists want Reagan school name changed after controversial recording surfaces

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A group of activists is calling on a Union County school named for President Ronald Reagan to change its name after controversial recordings of the late president surfaced.

The Nixon Presidential Library released the recording last week. It depicts then-California Gov. Reagan using racially insensitive words to describe African leaders following a meeting at the United Nations. Then-President Richard Nixon was on the other end of the call. He also made some disparaging remarks.

“He got caught. He got caught,” says activist Ricky Castaneda.

Castaneda started a petition on Change.org to get the Ronald Reagan Academy in Elizabeth to change its name. He says that long before the recording surfaced, many city residents didn’t think that the magnet school should be named after the Republican president, especially since a majority of the residents are Hispanic or Latino.

“It just gives us confirmation of how much more racist Ronald Reagan was even before as president,” Castaneda says.

The Elizabeth Board of Education released the following statement about the issue, "Board policy is to name schools after prominent individuals, but that is not an endorsement of all of the policies or statements of those individuals. The board finds the recently uncovered comments appalling. The board will hear the petitioners' concerns as it does all residents' concerns at its upcoming meeting."

Castaneda says that there should be some changes as to how schools are named.

“There is no policy with naming schools, which is why this is a ruckus to begin with,” he says.

The next school board meeting will be Aug. 22.

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