Posted by: Opey | June 19, 2007

Madison School Board Votes Down Vang Pao

In a move that surprised very few yesterday, the Madison school district voted unanimously to remove Vang Pao’s name from the new elementary school being constructed in the district.  This, of course, resulted from the recent arrest of Pao on charges that he was planning and leading a coup attempt against the Laotian government, as well as his muddled history during his time in Laos in the 60s.  Finally, the board made the proper decision.  It is a bit unnerving that it took a further criminal indictment to swing the vote to the side of the name’s removal.  The manner of war and conflict during the 60’s hampers the discovery of just what happened in countries such as Vietnam and Laos by Pao, US-backed agencies, and others.  In that context, it would have been best to be on the side of caution and remove the name before any further indictments were made.  It does appear that the board is also doing the right thing by considering other Hmong names for the school.  The Hmong are a wonderful part of the Madison community and deserve to have a school named in their honor.  What I do have a problem with is the names suggested by some members of the Hmong community.  It is my opinion that when you name a school, you should make 1 of 2 choices: either the name of an individual whom will act as a role model for students at that school or the city/locality where the school is located.  It has been suggested that the school be named “Hmong Memorial Elementary School,” “Haiv Hmong Elementary School” or “Hmong United Elementary School.”  To me, this seems to single out the Hmong community and give an air that this is a Hmong school, not a public school open to people of all races and ethnicities.  To the best of my knowledge and quick research, I do not remember/was unable to find any other instances of a public school named after an entire ethnic/religious/racial group.  I attempted to research the meaning of Haiv Hmong, but was unsuccessful in my search so I do not proclaim to know the meaning behind it, but the other two fit my description.  There must be Hmong cultural/religious leaders who are deserving of the honor and recognition of having a school named after them.  We must not rush into another decision.  Take the necessary time and do the proper research and fact checking necessary to find a proper candidate.



  1. Where I grew up, in Montgomery County, MD, there was a rule against naming a school after somebody until they were dead. Now I understand why.

  2. I guess I’m fine with districts selecting living people with two requirements: 1) The person whose name is under consideration must be way above and beyond others in terms of character and achievements. Some people are worthy of recognition before their death, but it is a small number of individuals. 2) Full and exhaustive research must be done into this person’s qualifications and past. If you are going to recognize someone, alive or deceased, make sure they are worthy of such recognition.

  3. It was ashamed to see the Vang Pao removed from the school by one mistakes that he made or even entrapted by his own friends for political motivation. I believed that all the school names for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc should be removed also because they all have slaves, violation of biggest human right. The American people are just betray their best friend and the Hmong people. Still i believed the school should still be name “Hmong Freedom School.”

  4. …It was so bad, why the boards allow such groundbreaking ceremony took place and then removed the name, there is going to be a curse to that school.. it’s ashamed for that community no matter what anyway… my point is, you’re recognized someone for their good work not for their every little mistakes. If you are going to reward your children, you’ll anyway eventhough they broke some rules.

  5. The Madison School Board was in the wrong for not doing their research before naming and breaking ground for the school. I agree that everyone has flaws, but there is eventually a tipping point where the flaws begin to overshadow the positives.

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