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Mascots may get dumped
By: Sean Olson , Staff writer 01/14/2004
School officials took the next step to eliminate American Indian mascots on Tuesday night.

At its regular meeting, the Guilford County Board of Education approved a policy statement with the intent of eliminating mascots.

While the vote does not eliminate mascots, it sets out the board's intent to do so, and it also means the board will develop a policy to eliminate the mascots after a 30-day period to gather public comment.

Two Guilford County Schools currently have Native American mascots: T. Wingate Andrews High School (The Red Raiders) and Southern Guilford High School (Indians).

The vote was a victory for Monroe Gilmour, who spoke to the board Tuesday, and others who have advocated for the change of American Indian mascots, such as the National Center for Community and Justice and other local and national groups.

"Well, I think this is a useful first step," said Gilmour, of the Asheville-based N.C. Mascot Education and Action Group, which advocates for doing away with American Indian mascots. "I really see it as a movement of society to improve itself one more time, just as we got rid of black and white water fountains."

Susan Mendenhall, who made the motion, said "we as a board of education need to provide leadership ... I would like this board to make a decision and take a stand and use it as a teachable moment."

Board members Deena Hayes and Johnny Hodge both said the mascots should be changed, not because it is politically correct but because, as Hayes said, "this is not a politically correct issue, it's a humane and just issue."

Changing the mascots will not come without a cost. Guilford County Schools Superintendent Terry Grier estimates changing uniforms and other material to erase the mascots could cost upward of $125,000.

And not everyone was in favor of the vote. Anita Sharpe, who represents Southern Guilford as part of her district, voted against the motion. Sharpe argued the school board should not vote without the input of the other side of the argument.

"We have been talking for one hour, and I don't think it's fair and I don't think it's just if we don't allow the schools who are involved and we the alumni of those schools to be involved," Sharpe said. "We are directing staff to begin the process of eliminating Indian mascots, and we haven't even heard from the other side."

Board Chairman Alan Duncan asked Gilmour if other groups are targeted for change.

"There are, as you are well aware, mascots relating to other ethnicities, for example in North Carolina there are the ... Fighting Scots, there are the Northwest Guilford High School Vikings," Duncan said. "Is the initiative that you are focused on solely on Native American mascots or does it have a broader context?"

"We are focusing on the Native American mascots," Gilmour replied. "If there is another groups that feel offended, we would be happy to listen to them, but right now this is the only one."

Southern Guilford High School principal Steve Hodgin declined comment until he had had the opportunity to go back to his school and discuss the board's decision with staff.

Native American mascots have drawn controversy over the past years. National organizations have called for eliminating the mascots. The U.S. Justice Department was involved in urging Buncombe County Schools to eliminate their female sports mascots, The Squaws.

Sean Olson can be contacted
at 888-3627 or

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