- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

Officials in Harford County say their communities, not the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, will decide whether school team names like "Warriors" are offensive.
"I believe, in this multicultural society, all aspects of the culture belong to everybody," said Havre de Grace Mayor David R. Craig. "No one part of the culture has a lock on any other part of the culture."
The commission will likely face opposition from other school districts in its efforts to persuade them to stop using names like "Braves," "Indians" and even "Warriors" for their sports teams.
Wicomoco County officials yesterday questioned who will pay to alter their schools' Indian logos, while officials in Washington County said they have not been contacted about altering their Indian-inspired team names but insisted they will not be assigned a timetable for change.
County and school officials around the state questioned the reasoning that led the Montgomery County Board of Education on Tuesday to order Poolesville High School to change its teams' name by next year, citing its use of the word "Indians" as being inconsistent with policies mandating "a welcoming climate for all."
Indian Affairs Commissioner Richard Regan called the Montgomery County board's action "the great equalizer" and singled out Harford County, northeast of Baltimore, as the panel's next target.
Two weeks ago, state officials told commission members they had exceeded their authority when they called for a boycott of the sponsors of a Little League group in Germantown whose teams used the names "Braves" and "Indians."
Harford County has a high school and middle school in Havre de Grace that use the nickname "Warriors" and an elementary school that uses "Indians." A bronze bust of an Indian chieftain sits in the high school's lobby.
Harford County officials said they will listen to the commission's argument, but added that they will not give up their "Warriors" without a fight.
Mr. Craig, a 1967 graduate of Havre de Grace High School, has publicly expressed his opinion in two letters to the state Board of Education. In addition, the Havre de Grace City Council adopted a resolution Aug. 6 saying the name, which originated in 1948, should be kept.
"Our understanding right now is it's going to be a community-based decision," said Havre de Grace High School Principal Stephen Williams. "I'm proceeding with this process in the belief that the decision of the community is going to be respected and followed."
Mr. Williams said he will, with the consent of Harford County schools Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas, begin holding public meetings on the issue this fall, similar to the process begun by Poolesville High School Principal Mark Levine in May after he was approached with complaints from the Indian commission.
At Poolesville, the Indian commission addressed parents and students at two community meetings. Afterward, 60 percent of the community voted to retain the nickname.
But at Tuesday's school board meeting in Montgomery County, board member Steve Abrams said the board did not sanction the "straw poll" and was not bound by the results.
Mr. Williams said he has consulted this month with Mr. Levine and Mr. Regan during a meeting attended by school staff and Mrs. Haas, adding that he expects the issue at Havre de Grace to come to a vote around Thanksgiving.
Harford County schools spokesman Donald Morrison said yesterday the school board is likely to defer to the wishes of the community.
"The current thinking on our part is that it will be a school decision," Mr. Morrison said. "Our board has not expressed an interest in getting directly involved."
Mr. Williams declined to take sides on the issue but said he expects the community will wish to keep the school's name intact. "If that's the way it is, that's the way it is," he said. "We're going to listen to anything and respect everyone's opinion."
Kristen Sudano, student council president of Havre de Grace High School, said the school's 650 students are very aware of the debate, adding that she has seen T-shirts bearing the slogan "Save the Warrior."
"I just feel it's a name that's been with us so long it's really not just a school issue, it's a community issue," the 16-year-old junior said. "Personally, I think it would be a shame to change the name. It's part of the heritage of Havre de Grace."
There are 27 schools in 13 Maryland school systems that continue to use names considered offensive to American Indians, according to the commission. Of the 27, 14 use the name "Indians," 11 use "Warriors" and two use "Braves." Eleven are high schools, nine are elementary schools and seven are middle schools.
In Montgomery County, the school board's decision to force Poolesville to change from "Indians" came with the promise of $80,000 to replace school uniforms and a gymnasium floor.
Wicomico County schools spokeswoman Tracy Sahler said the Eastern Shore county hardly has enough money to pay for books and technology.
"Do we have $80,000 that's not being used that could be used for this? No," she said. "Montgomery County has a little different financial situation than we do." She said the issue of the county's three schools that use the names "Indians" and "Warriors" "hasn't come up yet."
With four schools using "Indians" or "Warriors," Washington County in Western Maryland could be affected most by a move to "nonoffensive" team names.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide