Last year, a Connecticut school board eliminated its high school's "Redmen" mascot after it was called racist and offensive to Native Americans — but the new Republican-controlled school board just reinstated it, WFSB-TV reported.
The Killingly Board of Education voted 5-4 last week to bring back the "Redmen" mascot, the station said, adding that it was the first time a U.S. school reinstated a Native American mascot after previously deciding to ditch it.
Not everybody was happy about the "Redmen" coming back, however.
"You are all pulling the rug right from beneath us. Everywhere we go, we are the laughingstock of the state," Kevin Marcoux, the athletic director of Killingly High School, said during the meeting's public testimony, the Hartford Courant said.
Board member Hoween Flexer told WFSB that "we stopped letting it be about the students and doing what's right. And people can be mad about the process and people can be mad about whatever it is that they think they are losing, but the people who are directly Impacted have spoken and we chose to not listen to them."
What's the background?
Killingly High School — which had been using the "Redmen" name and logo since 1939, the station said — was among many schools around the country grappling with controversy over Native American-related mascots.
The decision to ditch the mascot occurred after students, faculty members, and representatives from nearby Native American tribes convinced the board that "Redmen" is an offensive term, WFSB said. Three months later, Red Hawks was selected as the new school mascot, the Courant said.
But in November, Republicans — some who campaigned on a promise to change the mascot back to "Redmen" — were voted in, took control of the board, and promptly got rid of the Red Hawks mascot, the station reported.
Then came last Wednesday's vote to bring "Redmen" back, with the caveat that a different logo will be used, WFSB said.
What else was said at the meeting?
The station said a large number of people at the meeting spoke out against the "Redmen" mascot — including teachers, students, and Native Americans — but no one in the crowd spoke in support of it.
But Jason Muscara, a Republican member of the board, said students who supported the "Redmen" mascot called him and said they didn't feel they could "speak up in favor of that," the Courant reported.
"If we're going to talk about respecting our students and protecting our students and doing what's best for our students, we need to respect the opinion of all of our students, not just the ones we agree with," Muscara also said, the paper noted.
Prior to last fall's election, Muscara said getting rid of the "Redmen" mascot was the work of town Democrats' "radical left agenda," the Courant added.
"We're doing an abysmal job of teaching history to these kids," said Karen Fremuth — another Republican board member who supported reinstating the "Redmen" mascot — who argued that it has "nothing to do with race" and that the qualities of a "Redman" are "the same virtues we want in a graduate," the paper said.
"History and facts change as we get more information," said Lydia Rivera-Abrams — a Democratic board member who opposed reinstating the "Redmen" mascot — who said the board was charged with helping students have "respect for everyone" and adjust to an "ever-changing world," the Courant added.
But Republican Gregory Biggs said the board was moving "too fast" with the vote, the paper reported, adding that he said he and other board members got emails from many Killingly students opposing the reinstatement of the "Redmen" mascot.
"I think if we go back to the Redmen name, even if the numbers haven't changed, we'll have 40 percent of our student body that is disappointed with the decision, and that is far too high," Biggs said, according to the Courant.
What did a Native American tribe have to say?
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation last week urged board members to "rethink their decision," the paper said.
"Although we appreciate the Board of Education's decision to establish a subcommittee to develop a Native American centered curriculum, we're disappointed in their vote to reinstate the offensive Redmen mascot," the tribe's statement said, according to the Courant. "We support the sentiments shared by members of our Youth Council at yesterday's hearing, and believe the mascot doesn't honor or represent Native people and has no place in our school system."
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