- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

The school boards in Washington and Frederick counties are resisting the attempts of a Maryland Indian affairs commissioner to bar the use of team names and mascots such as "Warriors," "Braves" and "Indians."
Frederick County school Superintendent Jack D. Dale recently refused to force Linganore High School to eliminate its Indian mascot, writing in a Feb. 11 letter to Richard Regan that he had "no reason to believe the mascot has created a hostile learning environment or has been viewed as offensive by the school community."
Mr. Regan, a Lumbee Indian and member of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, has led a crusade against such names and mascots, which he calls "racist" and "demeaning to Indian culture."
"They are making Indians into trophies," he said. He likened this to naming teams after ethnic epithets for Germans or Hispanics. "These groups are strong and wouldn't stand for it. But no group of people should be objectified."
Frederick County Board of Education President Ronald Peppe Jr. said last week the board doesn't have any plans to take up the matter or change the high school mascot.
"We don't want to impose a change on a school if we don't have to," he said. "We have sent the matter back to the superintendent."
In Washington County, one elementary school has taken steps to change its nickname and mascot. School officials have not addressed the use of Indian symbols by Boonsboro High School and Conococheague Elementary School.
Boonsboro High School Principal Richard Akers told a local newspaper that the nickname and mascot were a source of pride for the students and the community.
But interim schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan told Mr. Regan in a Jan. 31 letter that she shared Mr. Regan's "concern that negative stereotyping of Native Americans, as well as others, be eliminated."
Washington County school officials said they are researching the issue and want to be culturally sensitive, a schools spokeswoman said.
Edward Forrest, president of the Washington County Board of Education, said the school board wants to meet to discuss the matter.
"It is a sensitive issue," he said. "There is a strong outpouring of support to retain the names. We follow a policy of nondiscrimination. We wouldn't want to counter that."
Personally, he said, "I don't think the names are racially insensitive but a celebration of Indian heritage."
In Maryland, 13 out of 24 school districts don't use or have banned the use of Indian names and mascots. About 2 percent of students statewide have Indian ancestry, according to state figures.
In the past year, schools in Montgomery, Prince George's and Charles counties have changed their policies while Cecil and Harford counties have fought efforts to change. One school, Poolesville High School in Montgomery County, fought and lost a fight to keep its "Indians" nickname after the county school board overruled the community last summer.
Mr. Regan has vowed to appeal to the Maryland Board of Education and even the federal government if Washington and Frederick counties rejected his proposal.
The state board passed a resolution last summer encouraging but not mandating school districts to cease using Indian nicknames and symbols.
Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Washington County is changing its nickname "Braves" voluntarily. Principal Robin Handler said the community decided to do this last summer to give the students a new name and mascot of their own.
"It's nice for the students because it helps them own their school," she said. "Besides, it was a good time to do something different."
Students were asked to come up with new names as part of a contest that ended last week. Ms. Handler said only a half-dozen entries were received so the school would reopen the contest.
"Everything that has come in has been patriotic," she said.


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