- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—GOSHEN — Goshen Community Schools leaders on Monday voted 5-2 to retire the “Redskins” nickname, effective Jan. 1.

More than 200 people attended Monday’s meeting, held in the Goshen High School auditorium to accommodate the additional visitors.

School Board President Cathie Cripe, board secretary Roger Nafziger and board members Jose Ortiz, Bob Duell and Jane DeVoe voted in favor of the change, with board vice president Jim Ramer and board member Jane Troup voting in opposition.

Board members on Monday did not select a new nickname and said that decision would be made by leaders at Goshen Middle School and Goshen High School in the months to come.

The decision came after nearly four hours of public comments from 49 individuals and the seven board members, speaking on both sides of the issue.

The most recent discussion about the nickname began June 8, when Dave Ostergren and Marilyn Torres, both of Goshen, addressed board members to share concerns about the negative effects the term “Redskins” might have on students.

Throughout the two-month discussion, there was no shortage of Goshen High School alumnus voicing support online for keeping the nickname. Many others attended school board meetings and shared their views.

More than 1,500 signatures appeared on an online petition through thepetitionsite.com to keep the nickname, and hundreds more people echoed support on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

After Monday’s meeting, the online sharing continued, with many people sharing their disappointment and frustration and others thanking board members for their leadership.

Board comments

Early in Monday’s meeting, Duell made the motion to retire the mascot at Goshen Middle School and Goshen High School, effective Jan. 1. DeVoe seconded the motion.

Even before the vote, the two board members who voted against the change — Ramer and Troup — shared concerns about dropping the nickname.

“I think our nation is not ready yet for the change and I don’t think our community is ready for the change,” Ramer said.

As she stated before, Troup again explained that were she not a board member, she would be “sitting in the audience with a red T-shirt, wanting to save the mascot.”

But the five remaining board members on Monday voiced support for finding a new mascot for Goshen students.

“As has already been stated the issue has been before this board for at least 25 years. It didn’t just come up in June. It’s been with us for a long time and it’s not just going to go away if we keep it,” Nafziger said. “I believe that we can retire the mascot respectfully and move forward together with a new mascot.”

Public comments

During Monday’s meeting, 49 members of the public — most from Goshen, but some from other area communities or out of state — shared views on both sides of the issue.

Corey Shields, a 2005 Goshen High School graduate, was among those who asked board members not to change the longtime nickname.

“From a flag in South Carolina to a mascot and nickname, history is being messed with by so few people. Changing our constitutional freedoms and the history that was worked so hard for,” Shields said. “This is America, people, where men and women have and still are fighting for our freedoms.”

Shields said changing the nickname will “destroy” the high schools’ name.

“Redskins has been a nickname that was fought for with blood, sweat and tears from the boys of fall to the ladies in the spring,” he said.

David Stotts, a 1980 graduate of Goshen High School, also asked board members to save the mascot.

Stotts asked board members how much the cost would be to change the mascot on uniforms and signs in other schools within the athletic conference.

“There’s a whole cost and as a taxpayer, I really don’t want my taxes to go up just to become the ‘rainbows’,” he said. “… There’s a whole realm. Where do you stop? Is it just the logo or is it the word? Or is it both? Because you’re going to have to decide at some point, where does it stop?”

Many people on Monday also urged school board members to change the mascot.

Carl Weaver, a Goshen High School science teacher, said the change is a difficult one for the community, but sets the standard for cultural and social awareness and justice.

“The thing I’ve appreciated about this community, this school, is the fact that when we see a need for change, we’ve been willing to raise the bar and say we need a new standard,” Weaver said. “Individuals, societies, school communities are no better than the lowest standard they are willing to live with.”

What’s next?

Board members voted Monday to strip the “Redskins” name from all athletic wear and clothing and to have the mascot removed from both schools.

According to an estimate from Athletic Director Larry Kissinger, making those changes could cost the school corporation between $7,000 and $16,000, said board member Bob Duell.

“A lot of that depends on how much we remove,” he said, explaining how some athletes have spears on their shorts or helmets.

The board on Monday did not decide what the future mascot might be,

That decision, said Cripe, will be left to the schools to decide.

“The principals, staff and students at Goshen Middle School and Goshen High School will get to choose. It’s their mascot. It’s not the school board’s job to decide that,” Cripe said.

She added that she does not know whether leaders of those schools will ask for the community’s help in selecting a new mascot.

“That’s going to be up to them,” she said.

Follow jbeer_TGN on Twitter.

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(c)2015 the Goshen News (Goshen, Ind.)

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