San Francisco schools ban ‘chief’ from occupational titles

May 27, 2022 GMT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco Unified School District will no longer use the word “chief” in job titles because of concerns from Native Americans.

District officials said they haven’t decided what they will use instead of “chief.” The San Francisco Chronicle first reported the ban on Wednesday.

“While there are many opinions on the matter, our leadership team agreed that, given that Native American members of our community have expressed concerns over the use of the title, we are no longer going to use it,” the district statement said.

“With nearly 10,000 employees, SFUSD is one of the largest employers in San Francisco and in addition to site leaders, we need central leaders who serve all of our 119 schools,” it said.

The statement acknowledged that those positions require significant responsibility and specific expertise.

“By changing how we refer to our division heads we are in no way diminishing the indispensable contributions of our district central service leaders,” it said.


The district’s decision follows such moves as the recent renaming of Northern California’s former Squaw Valley Ski Resort. The word “squaw,” derived from the Algonquin language, has morphed over generations to a misogynist and racist term to disparage Indigenous women.

Thursday, lawmakers in the state Assembly passed a bill that would remove “squaw” from all geographic features and place names in the state. Lawmakers would not say the word while debating the bill. Democratic Assemblymember James Ramos, a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe, referred to it as the “s word.”

“This word that is still being used in well over 100 geographical areas in California,” Ramos said. “This word is very derogatory toward Native American women.”

The word “chief,” however, is commonly used to connote leadership and authority — from fire and police chiefs to chief executives, chief scientists and engineers, and a host of other jobs.

According to Webster’s New World dictionary, the origin and development of the word “chief” runs back through Middle English and Old French to Latin.