The Dartmouth high school named after scandal-struck Prince Andrew will soon invite community members to discuss whether or not to change its name.
The school’s principal, Brad McGowan, plans to launch an online survey. He’ll talk about the process and software at the school’s advisory council meeting on Monday.
“What I feel responsible for is to give the community a voice,” said McGowan.
The high school, with just under 800 students, was built in 1960, the same year Andrew, Duke of York, was born. He was embroiled in scandal late last year because of his ties to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who was charged with sex trafficking and conspiracy to traffic minors for sex.
After that news broke, McGowan said he received phone calls and emails demanding a change to the school’s name. Many were “overwhelmingly” in favour of changing the name, but others wanted the school to keep it.
McGowan plans to gauge opinion on a possible name change by using Thought Exchange, an online software that allows people to answer questions and see the opinions of others. Alumni, parents and people in the school’s neighbourhood would be polled.
“In this case it would be those most impacted by the name of the school,” said McGowan.
That would include Brianne Murphy, who graduated from the high school in 2016. She would like to see the name changed.
“It’s idolizing someone who I don’t think should be idolized,” said Murphy.
British citizen Virginia Roberts Giuffre alleges she was forced into sex with Prince Andrew at the direction of Epstein, who died in his jail cell in New York last August. The Duke of York denied the allegations in an interview with the BBC, and has since stepped back from public duties.
McGowan said if the community seems in favour of a name change, a committee would be formed to look at the issue in depth and possibly suggest other names. The committee would send a report to the regional executive director of the Halifax Regional Centre of Education (HRCE) to review.
A similar process was used in 2011 when Cornwallis Junior High School was changed to Halifax Central Junior High.
McGowan hopes to have community members using Thought Exchange to voice their opinions by the school’s next advisory council meeting in February.
“I realize people want answers quickly, but the reality is that this is a long process,” said McGowan. “The last thing we want to do is have a knee-jerk reaction and not authentically reflect the community.”
Two Canadian organizations have distanced themselves from Prince Andrew.
Lakefield College School, northeast of Toronto, dropped the prince from its foundation board where he served as honorary chairman. SickKids hospital in Toronto ended its relationship with the prince’s charitable foundation in November.
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Sam calls Orillia, Ontario home. When he's not chasing Signal stories, he can be found sketching in cafes, watching soccer or following news...