It’s About Bill Fanning’s Legacy… It’s About Our Kids.

From time to time I’m made privy to email and presentations to Council and the BOUSD Board to offer comments and maybe the occasional edit. Such is the case for Drew Hefner’s statement to the school board.

A Brea resident for over two decades and twice over a Fanning parent, Drew has helped spearhead the opposition to the fallacious allegations coming from a handful of out-of-town wannabe social activists.

He has been kind enough to allow me to publish his remarks here with the hope that they encourage others to attend next Monday night’s meeting and to speak their mind as well.

kidDrew Hefner’s remarks.

I am speaking up to urge the citizens of Brea to do the right thing and call for the retention of William E. Fanning’s name with Fanning Elementary.

I was surprised to learn that instead of being a local, grass-roots effort, those demanding that Mr. Fanning’s name be removed from Fanning Elementary are mostly outsiders to Brea: from the OC Weekly (Costa Mesa), the Voice of the OC (Santa Ana), OC Human Relations (Santa Ana), the Fullerton Observer, the Democratic Party of Orange County (Orange), and a Facebook group, founded just last December, predominantly of La Habra residents.

The reasons offered by those calling for the change are not supported by facts, but instead are a conflated mess of opinion and conjecture coupled with a desire to be on the right side of history.

The facts related to this issue are clear.

Social media comments and on-line reports dating back to 2011, and resurrected in 2017, suggested a connection between W.E. Fanning and the KKK are false.

The primary evidence offered is a list of names found in the Anaheim Heritage Center’s collection which is purported to be a list of KKK members.

This list and associated information was examined by the Brea Historical Society’s Museum Curator in 2017 per a request from the BOUSD Superintendent.

The final report, dated 30 November 2017, concluded: “Based on the interpretation of the data, we find no credible evidence to support the petitioner’s allegations”, meaning Mr. Fanning did not have a verifiable membership in the KKK.

In addition, the report stated that no evidence in newspaper articles or personal recollections was found to indicate Mr. Fanning was in any way racially motivated.

From deception to distraction.

Claims of Brea’s racist past, including suggestions of it being a “Sundown Town”, as well as Brea demographics of the 1920’s showing little or no diversity have been offered to corroborate the links between Brea and the KKK.

Though somewhat historically accurate, there is no link to Mr. Fanning… period. It’s a smokescreen and nothing else.

The outsiders disparaging the Fanning name through unsubstantiated claims are little more than bullies.

Mr. Fanning’s past has been reviewed, allegations of his association with the KKK are a toxic brew of rumor, innuendo and conjecture intended to play on people’s emotions.

It reeks of both slander and libel.

It is also clear, stated publically in their meetings, that most of the BOUSD Board does not believe the allegations connecting Fanning to the KKK.

Doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.

Some of the Board have chosen reluctantly the removal of the Fanning name but only out of frustration and a desire to “move on.”

I am one of a very large and growing number of Brea residents, parents, teachers and administrators who do not want to see the name removed when doing so is not supported by facts.

To emphasize, let me be clear: Taking a stand to maintain Mr. Fanning’s name on the school is not the same thing as defending a racist or deeming the allegations as nothing more than ancient history that doesn’t matter today.

I still live in this community and care very much about both our image, and the impact that racist acts could have on our fellow residents, schools and businesses.

The BOUSD Board needs to embrace the results of the well-documented Brea Historical Society report, put an end to this made-up controversy and retain Mr. Fanning’s name as part of any re-branding of the school.

They must not allow Mr. Fanning’s name and reputation to be destroyed by those who have disregarded the facts and the truth in pursuit of their own suspect agendas.

Amen Mr. Hefner. Amen.

Except for the couple of dozen troublemakers who, for several years, have failed miserably to make their case against William Fanning, everyone else agrees that he was truly a pioneer in Brea education, that he stood up against segregation and laid the foundation for the schools serving our children today.

Our children deserve no less than the truth and we’re obligated to give it to them.

If the BOUSD Board gives in to the bullies and leans on one of their indefensible excuses to change the school’s name and discard the Fanning legacy in the process… that is the truth we will share with our kids.

And if this is an example of the weak willed and ill-informed leadership we can expect going forward, what option besides a recall would put Brea schools back on course?

Whether you’re able to be there Monday night or have the time to send the board an email… at least make yourself these two promises.

My kids will know the truth. My kids will not be bullied.