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A middle school is renamed after a Minnesota icon (but it's not Prince)

Students at Ramsey started an effort to rename their middle school – and this week they achieved their goal.

It won't be Prince Rogers Nelson Middle School like some people had hoped.

But Ramsey Middle School in Minneapolis will be getting a new name thanks to the efforts of some socially conscious, hard-working kids.

The south Minneapolis institution is now known as Justice Page Middle School, after NFL Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page. The Minneapolis Board of Education approved the name change Tuesday evening – the final step in a monthslong process spearheaded by the students.

"A school should be named after someone students can look up to, a person students can be proud of, someone whose words and actions resonate with students, or someone who students can feel a connection to,"said eighth grader Olivia Bordon in a district news release. "Our new name reflects what we believe in at our school — integrity, inclusion and anti-racism."

Page, who was the first African-American justice in Minnesota. even stopped by the middle school Wednesday morning, a Minneapolis Public Schools spokesperson told GoMN. Special Education Assistant Diane Whipkey even snagged a selfie with him:

And here he is with even more people.

The other names they considered

This entire effort started back in August of 2016, when some students showed up to the school's open house wearing stickers that read "Rename Ramsey."

Their argument: The school's longtime namesake Alexander Ramsey terribly mistreated Native Americans. Ramsey, the second governor of Minnesota, is quoted as saying the Sioux in Minnesota "must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the state" in the lead-up to the U.S.-Dakota War.

He also negotiated a land purchase with Dakota tribes in 1851 (the Traverse de Sioux treaty), only for the U.S. government to stiff them when it came to payment.

The students made this case on a website, Rename Alexander Ramsey Middle School.

For months they planned, researched and raised money (more than $17,000, the district says). And they came up with a list of five possible new names for the school:

  • Alan Page
  • Prince (the musician)
  • Dorothy Vaughan (the mathematician of Hidden Figures fame)
  • Dr. Martha Ripley (a physician who fought for equal rights)
  • Bde Ota (the Dakota term for Minneapolis, meaning in essence "many lakes")

Prince was taken off the list after his estate said they were "honored," but declined the use of his name for the school. And Vaughan's name was removed when they couldn't reach her descendants.

The site council picked Page as the top remaining option in March. And now it's official after Tuesday's board vote.

There are a bunch of administrative-level steps still, a spokesperson explained. Making sure the state gets the new name, ensuring historical records are transferred, changing the name on websites or social media accounts or program books, etc. And at the school itself, there will be branding and signage that need to get updated.

But the hardest part is over.

"As students, we are often told we can change the world and we should try to change the world," Bordon said. "We are told our voice matters and we can do anything if we put our mind to it. The Rename Ramsey campaign did exactly that."

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