Lawsuit Filed Over Serra High's Name Change to Canyon Hills High School

Lawyers from the Thomas More Society filed a lawsuit in California Superior Court on Wednesday over the name change from Junipero Serra High School to Canyon Hills High School

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A lawsuit filed Wednesday aims to reverse the recent name change at what is now Canyon Hills High School in Tierrasanta and restore its previous name: Junipero Serra High School.

“A San Diego Principal and School Board circumvented the law in their rush to erase California history and the legacy of a Catholic Saint,” said Tom Ciesielka, a spokesperson for Thomas More Society, the group that filed the lawsuit.

Father Junipero Serra was an 18th Century Catholic priest largely credited with establishing the first missions in what is now California.

The name switch is has divided those who see it as an assault on history and others who believe Serra and the Conquistadors mascot are reminders of mistreatment towards indigenous people when missions were being established throughout Spain's North American territory.

In the Summer of 2020, statues of Serra were taken down in many places in the state by people for similar reasons.

“It’s all really centered around the oppression and the forced slavery and forced religion that they have on the Native Americans,” Canyon Hills High parent Jason Howard said.

The change makes sense to Howard, but not everyone agrees.

“It doesn’t make sense to me, so I’m really opposed to it,” 1980 Junipero Serra High School graduate Michael Bonot said.

Canyon Hills High Principal Erica Renfree said she's been consulting with Native American groups regarding the name change.

“We’ve been partnering with the tribal communities and they’re on board. They’re super excited and it’s really a proud moment,” Renfree said.

Thomas More Society claims the vote that triggered the name change violated the Brown Act, a law that requires adequate notice be given to the public ahead of school board meetings.

Canyon Hills is moving forward with the name change for the start of the next school year, though the process could be stopped by the impending litigation.

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