The on-again, off-again relationship between Michael Jackson and Gardner Street Elementary School in Hollywood is still on, although perhaps more tenuously so than at the height of the pop star’s popularity.
Parents and staff members have voted to retain Jackson’s name on the school’s auditorium, school district officials announced Saturday.
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.
Officials decided to put the matter to a vote of the school community in balloting that ended Thursday.
“A majority of those who participated voted to maintain the current name as the Michael Jackson Auditorium,” according to a statement issued by the Los Angeles Unified School District. “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.”
In a twist, Robson — one of Jackson’s accusers — told The Times this week that he, too, had attended Gardner. That was in the early 1990s, not long before Jackson was accused of improper conduct with another boy. Jackson settled that case out of court.
“We lived in Hollywood close to Gardner Street School, which is why I went there,” said Robson, whose family came from Australia to the United States so he could pursue a career as a child performer. “This was right after Michael Jackson sponsored me to the U.S. and while he was still sexually abusing me.”
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SOURCE: ArcaMax; Los Angeles Times, Howard Blume