The Legislature’s Budget Implementation Bill prohibits cities that use team names or mascots associated with Native Americans from receiving slot machine revenue, one of the factors that prompted the school board to West Hartford discussing the Conard and Hall high school nicknames.

By Ronni Newton

An issue that previously sparked extensive and heated discussion was revived by the West Hartford School Board, prompted by a combination of a change in Connecticut law and the policy recently passed by the board, and on February 1, 2022, a vote will be decided whether or not to continue using Chieftain and / or Warrior as nicknames for Conard and Hall high schools respectively.

Public Law 21-2, adopted by the state legislature in extraordinary session in June, includes the following provision: and the Mohegan Fund established in accordance with article 3-55i, if a school under the jurisdiction of the council of the education of that municipality, or an intramural or interschool sports team associated with that school, uses a name, symbol or image that represents, refers to or is associated with a state-recognized Native American tribe or level federal or individual, Native American custom or tradition, as a mascot, nickname, logo or team name.

In the current fiscal year, West Hartford received $ 27,820 in grants, but the impact could be greater in the years to come.

In March 2015, following extensive education council discussions that began the previous fall, as well as research and input from community stakeholders, the West Hartford Education Council voted to allow Conard and Hall retain their respective nicknames of chieftain and warrior. , provided that all Native American images, including mascots, are removed. Conard had used Native American symbols until then, while Hall had already given up on his mascot.

The policy adopted by the West Hartford School Board in 2015 specifically prohibits “the use of mascots, symbols, images or nicknames that are directly related or commonly associated with a particular race or ethnicity.”

In the years since the West Hartford School Board’s last vote on nicknames, several professional sports teams have changed their names, nearly a dozen high schools across the state have dropped the names and mascots associated with Native Americans, including the Catholics of the Northwest. High School (Indians to Lions), Glastonbury High School (Tomahawks to Guardians), Newington High School (Indians to Nor’Easters) and Farmington High School (Indians to River Hawks).

Deputy Superintendent of Administration Andy Morrow said it was up to the board to review policies, in light of state law as well as their own “vision of fairness and struggle. Against Racism ”, adopted in 2020, which states in part:“ We make a solemn promise to identify and dismantle all elements of systemic racism and historical inequalities. We are committed to clearing paths, with an implacable duty to those who belong to traditionally marginalized groups. We are committed to partnering with ALL families in the service of the success of every child.

Now, in light of state policy and law, Morrow has said, “Are you going back and changing the names of the leader and the warrior? “

Superintendent Tom Moore said that while high school principals Julio Duarte and Dan Zittoun – both of whom were running the schools when the decision was made in 2015 – as well as athletic director Jason Siegal, have done a good job in dissociating nicknames from imagery, “it is always linked to the past”.

Conard’s student representative Andrew Maglio said that even though he was only in fifth grade when the decision was last made, he’s pretty sure the term “chef applies. to other cultures “.

Republican board member Ethan Goldman said he associates the term “warrior” with the military, not the tribes.

It’s “hard to break something with the legacy,” Morrow said. “We can kid ourselves and say ‘chef’ can refer to something else,” he said, but these are words of analysis.

“A word in itself” can have different meanings, Moore said, but the connections remain and the legacy is still there. He noted that Hall traditionally referred to his student fan group as “The Reservation” and although Conard’s current student fan group is called “The Red C,” some of the shirts still bear the letters “TF” – meaning “Tribe Forever” as a nod to the old name of the band.

The state considers the names to be associated with Native Americans, as do tribes, Morrow said.

Although no votes were taken on Tuesday, some board members have expressed their opinion on the nicknames.

“There is a compelling reason to change the names,” Democrat Jason Chang said. The problem has continued to surface since 2015, and although the money involved at this point is rather tiny, an underfunded district of West Hartford deserves as much money as possible. In addition, he said, changing the names, a desire that has been communicated by the tribes to the state, strongly supports the district’s anti-bias policy.

“This has a definite advantage in aligning with our agenda and the district’s stated commitments to honor tribes and indigenous nations,” Chang said.

“Where does it end?” Goldman asked. He said the next step would be to change the name of King Philip Middle School, or that PETA might have an issue with the animal names.

Democrat Ari Steinberg said that looking back at the policy recently adopted by the board, she was now in favor of the name change. “My interpretation of the name ‘warrior’, even though I don’t consider it disrespectful, is not really my decision to make,” she said.

An initial proposal to have the board vote on January 18, 2022 on whether or not to change one or both of the nicknames has been amended to allow more time for feedback from students and other members. from the community.

Republican Gayle Harris said the parents accused the council of not listening and asked that there be enough opportunities for comment. “The last time this was brought up, it was one of the biggest board meetings with the parents who came here,” she said.

Democrat Clare Neseralla also said there should be more time after the holidays for comment. “I’m just curious where the student body is … the current student body, where are they?” “

The Board of Directors approved by a 6: 1 vote a “motion to treat Public Law 21-2 with a vote on the use of” leader “and” warrior “and to create a process, if necessary, to adopt new measures on February 1. . “Goldman voted against the measure.

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