Fairbanks discusses changing the name of an elementary school

School district officials held a public meeting Monday night at a North Pole elementary school to discuss changing the schools name. Badger Road Elementary is named after Badger Road, which was named for area pioneer, farmer, politician and pedophile Harry M. Badger, who was convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl a century ago.

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Badger Road Elementary School (Photo by Robyne, KUAC - Fairbanks)
Badger Road Elementary School
(Photo by Robyne, KUAC – Fairbanks)

About 20 people sat in a cozy conversation pit to discuss a potential name change with the three school board members and district superintendent who came. School Board member Mike O’Brien told the group it is never too late to do the right thing in removing a criminal’s name from the school.

But resident Cheri Renson said the community identifies itself through the road.

“We want the name of the geographic area to remain intact with the school,” Renson said.

In the 70s, elementary student numbers boomed all over the borough during and after construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

500 children from homes along Badger Road were shuffled into the old McKinley Jr. High building on Fort Wainwright. It was called the elementary school for Badger Road kids…  so the words “Badger Road elementary school,” were more a description than a title. It wasn’t formally named until a new building was finished in the early 80s.

For about a month in the summer of 1982, the school was named the Harry M. Badger school. After approving that name, the school board immediately rescinded it at their next meeting, and the school continued to be called after the area where the students reside.

“Badger Road was named after Harry Pedophile,” Renson said. “And maybe it’s because he had the money. He built the road. We built the school. We all live here. But the problem is we identify with Badger Road. We don’t identify with the bad man that grew strawberries.”

The district has posted on its website articles about Badger’s crime, his guilty plea, his rape conviction, and community outrage at the lenient sentence he received. The district has also posted minutes for those 1982 naming meetings on its website.

There is a policy that schools not be named for criminals, so School Board member O’Brien was asked where he would draw the line. For example if Barnett school, named after early Fairbanks mayor … and scoundrel … E.T. Barnett would also be granted a name change.

“I think there is a line there somewhere,” O’Brien said. “My personal belief is that a pedophile is on the other side of that line for an elementary school.

The school board has had a lot of input through email comments, but this was the first community meeting. Board president Heidi Haas said it will be on the board’s agenda in November.

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