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Schools asked to boycott Rutland games if old mascot returns

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 4:59 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - The battle over the Rutland High School mascot has taken another turn. Now, there’s a call for other schools to boycott games against Rutland teams if the school returns to the Raiders mascot.

The Rutland Area NAACP is reaching out to all superintendents in the state asking them to own up to their mission statements by not allowing their kids to interact with racist names and imagery.

“So far, I have only heard back from a handful of superintendents who feel a little bit iffy and shakey about it,” said Mia Schultz, the president of the Rutland Area NAACP.

Schultz is talking about her organization’s effort to stop Rutland from returning to the Raiders mascot, a name and imagery considered offensive to some Native Americans.

Some Rutland sports teams still carry the Raiders name but earlier this winter, students voted to change their mascot to the Ravens.

Since then, new school board members have been pushing to undo that switch.

During Tuesday’s school board meeting, a statement from the NAACP and other groups was read.

“If the Rutland City School Board decides to revert to the racist mascot, we call on all school districts in Vermont to discontinue interacting with Rutland City School District for athletics, extracurricular activities and any other activities,” Anna Tadio read.

“This is about while we are all willing to have the difficult conversations, we also need to do the difficult work involved with equity and inclusion,” Schultz said.

Rutland High School Principal Greg Schillinger says he doesn’t know how that boycott would work. He said he cannot comment if it would ultimately punish the students because the adults cannot get along.

He added that conversations about the mascot have been positive but since the students were never specifically asked about the Raiders name, it’s hard to know how the majority feels.

“Frankly, I don’t think anyone really does have a really good sense of exactly where the student body as a whole stands on the issue,” Schillinger said.

Asking schools to no longer play a specific team is something the Vermont Principals’ Association has never dealt with before. The VPA had not been presented with the statement but says it has potential implications.

“My concern is the position that it puts the students in and yes, potentially does affect student participation both at Rutland and with the schools they would be playing,” said Bob Johnson, the associate executive director of the VPA.

But Schultz says kids are already being punished by seeing racist imagery and words.

“They need to think about that over at Rutland. This is on the adults to make sure that none of our kids in any of our schools are harmed any further,” she said.

The School Board chairperson announced an appointed ad hoc committee to continue dealing with the mascot issue. It is made up of two members who voted for the change, one who voted against it and a new member who ran on the basis of reverting the mascot.

They also have a tentative meeting scheduled for June 22 to further discuss this and allow public comment.

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