A Los Angeles elementary school formerly attended by Michael Jackson will keep his name on its auditorium in tribute to the late global entertainment icon, district officials announced over the weekend.

The issue was put to a vote following the recent release of a controversial film accusing Jackson of molesting children decades ago. Parents of students attending Gardner Street Elementary School in Hollywood, along with staff members, decided that Jackson’s name shall remain on the facility. Balloting ended last Thursday. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) told The Daily Wire earlier this week that it expects to release the final vote tally but did not know when the information would be available.

“A majority of those who participated voted to maintain the current name as the Michael Jackson Auditorium,” LAUSD said in a statement. “School leaders, teachers and support staff will focus on preventing any further disruptions to the school and further impact to classroom instruction, student learning and safety.”

The Los Angeles Times reports:

The vote took place in the wake of the March broadcast of the documentary “Leaving Neverland,” which aired on HBO and portrays Jackson through the eyes of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two men who allege Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. Jackson was never charged with abusing either.

The broadcast was deeply unsettling for many at Gardner, and a group of parents told Principal Karen Hollis that they wanted Jackson’s name taken down. There also were parents who felt otherwise, noting that Jackson was never convicted of wrongdoing and cannot defend himself. Jackson died in 2009 from an accidental drug overdose.

A spokesman for Jackson’s estate, which represents the interests of Jackson’s children, had urged the school community to respect the right of Jackson – like anyone else – to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Jackson was briefly enrolled at the school in 1969 when he was a sixth-grader after his family relocated to Southern California from Gary, Indiana. He did not return to public school after leaving Gardner. At the time, he was the youngest member of the Jackson 5 – a singing group comprised of Michael and four of his brothers. Their first hit, “I Want You Back,” was released in October 1969 and reached number one on the charts in January 1970.

According to The Times, the auditorium was named in Jackson’s honor in 1989, “a point at which Jackson’s public reputation was still essentially intact.” He was present when the school choir sang “We Are the World,” which was co-written by Jackson, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Since then, the pop star has been accused of sexually abusing children but has never been found guilty of those alleged crimes.

As previously reported by the L.A. Times:

Some parents complained about the name on the auditorium in 1993 – just four years after the dedication – when word leaked that Jackson was under investigation for his conduct with a boy. Jackson settled out of court with his accuser and prosecutors filed no charges.

In 2003, district officials ordered that Jackson’s name be covered with plywood – but not removed – after Jackson was arrested on charges of sexually abusing another boy. He was found not guilty following a criminal trial in 2005.

In 2010, a year after Jackson’s death from an accidental drug overdose at age 50, school district officials ordered the covering removed – amid much celebration from Jackson fans.

Both of “Leaving Neverland’s” accusers defended Jackson against molestation claims when the pop star was alive but filed lawsuits against his estate asking for millions after his death. According to a lawyer representing Safechuck, now 41, and Robson, 36, those cases were dismissed but are currently under appeal. In March, a British journalist reportedly discovered a significant discrepancy in a key part of the film calling its credibility into question.

Robson said in an interview with the L.A. Times that he had attended Gardner elementary in the early 1990s while his alleged abuse was still taking place.

“I commend Gardner Street School for allowing the parents to decide whether or not Michael Jackson’s name should remain on the auditorium,” Robson told The Times before the votes had been tallied.

Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.

You Might Like
Learn more about RevenueStripe...