Scores of parents and students descended Wednesday on a school board meeting in Frederick, Maryland, to protest a local principal’s decision to ban the use of an Indian headdress at the high school’s sporting events.
One of the individuals in attendance even urged the Frederick County school board to fire Linganore High School Principal Nancy Doll, the News-Post said. The school board declined to discuss personnel matters and also took a pass on reversing Ms. Doll’s decision, the Frederick News-Post reported.
“At this point we’re letting it be a school issue,” school board President Brad Young told the News-Post Thursday.
Linganore High School mascot is the Lancer, and its football helmets bear the image of a spear similar to that used by the Florida State Seminoles.
According to the News-Post, one Lancer tradition involves a graduating senior bequeathing a headdress to a rising senior, who then becomes the new “chief” leading the student fans at football and basketball games. According to its official website, just 2.2 percent of Linganore High students are of American Indian or Native Alaskan descent.
Despite Ms. Doll’s ban on the headdress, it appears no disciplinary action is being pursued against students who are disregarding it. The News-Post reported that at least one student has worn a headdress at a recent football game, and that a number of protesters at Wednesday’s school board meeting likewise donned the head covering.
Oddly enough, it appears that internet criticism of the Lancer tradition backfired on detractors, causing the controversy to explode as it has and backers of the tradition to dig in their heels.
As senior Jacob Garwood, 18, who was to be this year’s “chief,” told a local CBS News affiliate earlier this month, “We went in [to a meeting with administrators], and they mentioned something about the headdress. … Because of the issues that are going on in the country, right now, [they said] we don’t know if that would be a great idea.”
Jacob and other student leaders had agreed to work with school officials and voluntarily stop using the headdress, only to find the controversy had already blown up on the internet with a strongly-worded petition that blasted the school for cultural appropriation.
“Indigenous culture and spirituality should not be treated like a prop or costume,” one petition signer commented, the affiliate reported.
Roughly 1,500 people, some of whom live outside of Maryland, signed the petition calling for the removal of the headdress, while another petition requesting its return was signed by about 2,000, according to the CBS affiliate.