Nova Scotia

Why a N.S. school named after Prince Andrew is reconsidering its name

For 59 years, a Dartmouth, N.S., high school has carried Prince Andrew's name. At a public meeting on Jan. 20, officials will discuss whether to change the school's name.

Dartmouth school was named in 1960 to mark the birth of Queen Elizabeth's third child

Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, N.S., opened in 1960 and was named after the Royal Family member. Prince Andrew recently stepped down from public duties after being accused of sexual assault. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

It's best known as P.A., but officially the 59-year-old Dartmouth, N.S., high school carries the name of Prince Andrew, a now-disgraced member of the Royal Family.

Whether the school should continue to carry his name will be discussed at a public meeting scheduled for Jan. 20.

Principal Brad McGowan requested the issue be added to the agenda the next time the school advisory council meets.

"We've had some inquiries with the appropriateness of the name, so I think it's my responsibility to go to the community and say, 'Does this name continue to reflect the community?'" he said. 

A woman has accused Prince Andrew of having sex with her when she was 17. Virginia Roberts Giuffre said she was forced to have sex with Andrew in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island between 1999 and 2002, when she claims late U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein kept her as a "sex slave."

The controversy forced Andrew to step down from public duties on Nov. 20.

Britain's Prince Andrew, Duke of York, arrives for the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Bangkok on Nov. 3, 2019. (Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP via Getty Images)

McGowan is letting the community response guide him on whether he formally requests the name change.

"I'm aware that there will be passions on both sides, people who will say that this name has been the name of the school for 60 years and it's important that it stay that way," he said.

"And there will be those, and I've heard from some of them, who will say that it no longer reflects the community's values."

Belinda Oxner, chair of the P.A. school advisory council, thinks the school should get a new name.

"As a mother of three daughters, I find it very difficult to have that name on a building where our children are supposed to feel safe and with the allegations and the associations now with the Prince Andrew name," she said.

In this image taken from video issued by the BBC, Virginia Roberts Giuffre says she was a trafficking victim made to have sex with Prince Andrew when she was 17. (BBC Panorama/The Associated Press)

Oxner's youngest daughter, Abigale, is in her graduating year at P.A. Her eldest, Emma, graduated from the school in 2016.

Although Andrew's fall from grace has captured international attention, Oxner said the reaction she's heard about changing the name has been mixed.

McGowan said students aren't talking about the name.

"The questions are coming from outside the building, not within the building," he said. "Overwhelmingly from alumni, from parents who have attended the school themselves."

Brad McGowan is the principal at Prince Andrew High School. He's not taking a position on whether the school's name should change. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

McGowan said most students who go to the school would not associate the initials P.A. with Prince Andrew, and those who could would likely not know it was the Prince Andrew in the headline stories.

The policy for renaming a school, created in 1999, states "a request for the change must be submitted to the Governing Board, through the office of the Superintendent."

Since school boards no longer exist, it would fall to the regional executive director to decide, based on recommendations put forward by a four to six-member committee charged with examining the issue.

Belinda Oxner is the chair of Prince Andrew's school advisory council. She thinks the school's name should change. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

The process calls for consultation, student involvement and a communication plan that explains the process and timelines for public participation.

That was the process used during the 2011-2012 school year when Cornwallis Junior High was changed to Halifax Central Junior High. That process took several months.

There are no restrictions on what name a school can have.

"I'm sure those who decided to name the school after a newborn did not anticipate the possibility of any future negative impacts in naming their community school after a royal baby," said Doug Hadley, who speaks on behalf of the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.

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