Shaker Regional School Board: Belmont’s Red Raider change should be up to voters
Belmont High School’s logo, featuring a red-and-white profile of a Native American, isn’t found at center court in the school gym or on the football field’s 50-yard line. But, at least through March, the Red Raider mascot and logo will continue to represent the school and its students.
The Shaker Regional School Board, which represents Canterbury and Belmont, voted against the student council’s proposal to keep the Red Raider name but replace the logo with one that doesn’t include a Native American theme. Board members said they would rather see the issue brought up next March as a petitioned warrant article for voters to consider. In order to get on the ballot, the petition would need at least 25 signatures.
“I really think it should be the community’s decision because it has an effect across the board in a multitude of ways,” board member Gretta Olson-Wilder said. “In respect to all the individuals who spoke, I really feel it is more of a community decision.”
Board member Robert Reed cast the only vote in favor of changing the logo.
“It has always been, ‘It’s not offensive to me. It’s not offensive to me. It’s not offensive to me,’ ” Reed said, referencing comments in favor of keeping the mascot. “I don’t think that’s what the question is. I think the question really is, ‘Is it offensive to someone else?’ ”
Principal Dan Clary said the student council started exploring a name change after a discussion in social studies class. Last night, Taylor Becker and Andrew Bragg, who are student council co-presidents and have led the discussion about changing the mascot, made a presentation that included a video from the National Congress of Native Americans. The group opposes the use of terms such as “Redskins” and Native American mascots in sports.
Before the school board meeting, Becker and Bragg made a similar presentation to staff and students at the high school and also conducted a poll. Thirty-seven staff members wanted to change the logo while 11 wanted no change. A student survey of mostly freshmen, sophomores and juniors found 73 students favored a logo change, while 191 wanted to keep it and 11 were indifferent.
Changing the logo could increase school spirit, Bragg said.
“We can’t have mascot appearances, and we can’t work the mascot into pep rallies,” he said, though he added that the majority of about 70 people who attended a public forum in April wanted to keep the mascot.
“We don’t want to change the history of our school, and we don’t think anybody intentionally came up with our mascot to be racist or demeaning to a specific race,” Bragg said. “But it’s how we are perceived from the outside. We want to be able to promote ourselves respectfully and make sure no one else is affected.”
Junior Cassie Contagini of Belmont, who attended the meeting in Red Raider garb, said students had also started a petition to keep the logo in response to the proposed change.
“We look at it as something that we stand for and something we play for,” said Contagini, a three-sport athlete. “It’s our mascot, and we don’t want it to change.”
Freshman Taylor Yelle said she remembered watching her older siblings play for the high school.
“I was so excited because it showed courage and pride.
“I’m so proud to wear it on my jersey and on my jacket because it shows I am from Belmont,” she said. “Everyone knows that Belmont is the Red Raiders.”
Discussion about changing the logo has made students think about the meaning of the Red Raider, said Clary, who didn’t publicly support or oppose the change.
“I’ve got to admit Andrew and Taylor and other people that have been involved have taken some grief for bringing this forward, and that’s too bad,” Clary said. “I really, really praise you guys for doing the hard work of trying to make sure people know there might be another way of looking at something that seems to be innocent in the beginning.”
(Iain Wilson can be reached at 369-3313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)