HOLLYWOOD — Gardner Street Elementary School has decided to keep its auditorium named after perhaps the school’s most famous student, even though he attended the school for only a short time.
The school announced April 27 it would keep calling the school auditorium the Michael Jackson Auditorium, despite the allegations made about Jackson in the documentary “Leaving Neverland” that recently aired on HBO.
The school conducted a vote by parents and staff members and announced that a majority of the votes favored keeping Jackson’s name on the auditorium. A vote count was not released.
Jackson attended Gardner Elementary School in Hollywood for a few months in 1969 when he was 11 after his family moved from Gary, Indiana.
Within a few months, the Jackson 5 became a huge success and Jackson never attended formal school again. The auditorium was named in his honor in 1989 with Jackson attending a campus ceremony for the occasion.
But the recent documentary, which renewed accusations about Jackson sexually molesting young boys at his Neverland Ranch in Santa Barbara County, caused the school to reconsider the name on its auditorium.
A father told the Los Angeles Times he was conflicted about the name.
“I’ve tried to digest this,” said the man, whose daughter is a fifth-grader at the school. “I’ve grappled with it and I haven’t come to any decision.”
“The documentary was a dark thing,” he said. “And I believe the two men. But his music still lives. My gosh, people love his music. It’s a huge joy for them.”
“Leaving Neverland,” portrays Jackson through the eyes of Wade Robson and James Safechuck, two men who allege that Jackson sexually abused them when they were children. Jackson was never charged with molesting either.
“The documentary should not convict Jackson in the eyes of the Gardner community,” said Howard Weitzman, who represents Jackson’s estate, which has sued HBO over “Leaving Neverland.”
“It would be a terrible shame to remove Michael’s name from the auditorium based on an intentionally one-sided film,” Weitzman said. “There is no fair consideration when you only hear from one side. Michael Jackson is not guilty and he, like all citizens, is entitled to the presumption of innocence.”