Student Well-Being

School, Team Names Remain Thorny Issue for Many in Oregon

By Katie Ash — December 18, 2007 1 min read

Are high school sports teams that use names, mascots, or logos inspired by Native American images respectful? Or are they offensive?

Oregon education officials will get back to you on that.

The 14-member Native American Mascot Advisory Committee, formed by the Oregon Department of Education in response to a student’s call for the elimination of such mascots and logos last December, was slated to make a final recommendation this month.

But recent flooding prevented the committee from gathering adequate input, and that date has been pushed back, said Gene Evans, a spokesman for the education department.

The committee, made up of representatives from Oregon’s American Indian tribes, members of the state school boards’ association, and the education department, in August released a draft—affecting as many as 16 school districts in the state—calling for the phasing out of all Indian-themed logos and mascots by September 2009.

See Also

See other stories on education issues in Oregon. See data on Oregon’s public school system.

The draft was met with opposition from the potentially affected communities.

In many cases, “they thought it was a name or illustration that was supposed to be honoring Native Americans,” said Mr. Evans. “They certainly had no intention to be racist or disrespectful.”

He said some districts are also concerned about the cost of a name change. Rolla Weber, the superintendent of the 220-student Marcola school district near Eugene, Ore., and the principal of Mohawk High School, estimates that the cost for his district would be as high as $50,000 for replacement uniforms and adjustments to the gym floor.

Community reaction to the idea of changing the name of the school, the school’s sports team name—the Indians—and the school’s logo has been generally negative, said Mr. Weber.

The name was derived from the Mohawk Valley, where the high school is located, he said, and members of the community “just don’t see the sense and logic in this being mandated.”

A final recommendation from the panel will likely be released in early 2008, said Mr. Evans, then go to state schools Superintendent Susan Castillo for approval.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 19, 2007 edition of Education Week

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