This article was written by Nolan Lyford, a senior in the journalism class.
In December 2022, Washington Central Unified Union School District (WCUUSD) was faced by the State of Vermont’s General Assembly about the newly passed Legislative Act 152, a nondiscriminatory branding act intended to ensure that all “Vermont schools provide positive and inclusive learning environments for all students by eliminating the use of discriminatory school branding.”
This conversation didn’t begin in December or with WCUUSD, however. It all started in October, 2020 when the Rutland school board voted to change their controversial mascot. After three years of name changes which went from the Rutland Red Raiders to the Rutland Ravens, back to the initial Raiders, and now recently became simply “Rutland.” The reason why the Red Raiders were so controversial was because of their mascot being an arrowhead. Since then, eight Vermont schools have come under scrutiny over their mascots, including the Stowe and U-32 Raiders.
The WCUUSD school board passed Policy F2 on December 21, 2022, which shares the same language as the Legislative Act 152. Shortly after the board meeting where the policy was passed, U-32’s student council worked with Superintendent Meagan Roy to research this issue a bit more.
“The superintendent worked with our student council to do a review of the U-32s mascot,” said Principal Steven Dellinger-Pate of U-32 Middle and High School. “And so the student council also wanted to do a survey just to get students’ opinions as to how they felt about it and what they thought about our school’s mascot.” Questions on the survey included, What does a Raider do? What does our mascot mean to you? Are you worried about our school’s mascot? This survey brought in over 170 responses with over 120 of them responding that the students of U-32 were not concerned about the Raiders mascot nor would they like to change their mascot. Some other responses indicated that they as individuals weren’t worried about the mascot but worried that others might be.
Through the student council’s research, they reached all the way back to 1972 to find out the origins of the Raider, which included older images, to determine whether there is a record of any discriminatory imagery associated with it in the past. “The Raider mascot was selected by a vote of U-32 students shortly after the creation of the school,” said the School Board Report. The Knight itself was originally designed by Jostens (the yearbook company) after the student body selected the Raider name, and was first seen in yearbooks beginning in the late 1970’s. “This review did not reveal any past associations with Indigenous imagery, either in official representations or informally in yearbook photos.”
“I think it’s good that we are certainly looking to make sure that we haven’t used any imagery that is indigenous or offensive or anything like that,” said Dellinger-Pate. A recent VTDigger article said that “It’s unclear whether U-32’s Raiders originated from Indigenous stereotypes.”
At the latest WCUUSD school board meeting on April 19th, Amelia and Kai, two eighth grade students from the student council, presented their findings with Superintendent Roy. “The general consensus is that the mascot is not a problem but it could be cooler. It was not offensive,” said Amelia. They reported that a small group felt the symbols represent war and brutality and there were also a lot of comments asking if this (Knight) was how they really wanted to be represented.
During the 45 minute discussion the board went back and forth about what they should do with this information and their next steps. They spent the most time discussing section 3b of the policy. Board member Diane Nichols Fleming from Berlin said, “Knights are oppressive. That’s their role.”
School board chair, Flor Diaz Smith asked the board members: “What do we want to ask our students? Do we have enough information from them? Do we want to dig a little deeper? Do we need to go to our elementary schools? Because these students will be seventh graders some day.”
The board ended the mascot conversation with the majority of the board agreeing to look further into the mascot issue and whether the Raider and the Knight are oppressive and should be changed. In a straw poll 9 of the 13 board members believed the Raider Knight is in violation of policy F2.
At this point we do not know the future or the end of the story of the U-32 Raider Knights. Superintendent Roy will meet with student council members to share the board’s conversation and recommendations for the next steps and they will report back to the board at a later date.
For further updates, see this article by the Times Argus.