WHEREAS, over forty years ago the students of Clyde A. Erwin High School selected as their school mascot an American Indian character and named themselves the "Erwin Warriors" when referencing the student body and subgroups of the student body such as sports teams, band organizations, and other groups; and
WHEREAS, over time the students adopted the name "Erwin Squaws" when referencing the female student body and subgroups of the student body such as sports teams, band organizations, and other groups; and
WHEREAS, over time American Indian symbols of such mascots have been attached to, painted on, or printed on sports uniforms, school walls, gymnasium floors, band uniforms, notices of pep rallies, advertisements for school fund-raising activities, and other communications; and
WHEREAS, over time two totem poles and a Warriors' statue have been erected on the campus of the Clyde A. Erwin High School as sources of school pride; and symbols; and
WHEREAS, the Clyde A. Erwin Middle School has also adopted and used the mascot names and
WHEREAS, the Buncombe County Board of Education ("the Board") finds that mascot names and symbols are adopted by the schools within the Buncombe County School Administrative Unit and across the United States as focal points of community and student body pride and spirit and finds that they have positive and unifying effects within public school communities; and
WHEREAS, since the Spring of 1997, a small group has asserted that the use of the Erwin community schools' mascot name, 'Squaw", Is sexist, derogatory, and demeaning to women as used in some Native American languages; and
WHEREAS, this same group has expanded their original complaint and asserted that ail of the Erwin community schools! mascots, names, and symbols are offensive, racist, sexist, demeaning, discriminatory, Illegal, and create a racially hostile environment; and
WHEREAS, this same group protested the use of all of the mascot names and symbols at the Erwin community schools, and has requested that the Buncombe County Board of Education prohibit the use of all of the Erwin community schools' mascots, names, and symbols; and
WHEREAS, the Board initiated a process at the Erwin community schools following the protests described above intended to Increase the awareness of students regarding Native American issues and cultural heritage and to provide the student body of the Clyde A Erwin High School an opportunity to express their opinions and change or keep the mascots, names, and symbols; and
WHEREAS, the student body of the Clyde A. Erwin High School expressed its desire that the mascots, names, and symbols remain unchanged and the Board has attempted to honor the will of the student body; and
WHEREAS, the Board received official notice on January 26, 1999, from the Attorney General of the United States of America through Bill Lann Lee, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, by Lawrence R. Baca, Senior Trial Attorney of the Educational Opportunity Section of that office, informing the Board that a written complaint had been filed, advising the Board that an official investigation by the United States of America had begun, and demanding a response to fifteen sweeping Interrogatories within thirty days; and
WHEREAS, following discussions between the Board Attorney and the Department of Justice, the Board received assurances from the Department of Justice that it would immediately terminate its investigation if the Board adopted a resolution containing some of the language contained In this Resolution and that said action would also satisfy any concerns of the United States Department of Education; and
WHEREAS, the Board has received numerous statements (including threats) from individuals favoring or opposing any change of the mascots, names, and symbols used by the Erwin community schools; and
WHEREAS, the Board has met with Interested Individuals and groups representing the full spectrum of viewpoints and concerns; and
WHEREAS, the Board has sought advice and counsel from the Eastern Band of the Cherokee located In western North Carolina, and specifically from the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band, Ms. Joyce Dugan; and
WHEREAS, the Board held a public meeting attended by over one thousand (1,000) people on the 22nd day of February, 1999, In the gymnasium of Erwin High School and listened to, and considered the opinions of, over seventy (70) Individuals representing Erwin students, parents, teachers, alumni, community organization leaders, and concerned citizens; and
WHEREAS, prior to the public meeting the Board sought input from Erwin school community faculty, administration, and student, leaders: and
WHEREAS, prior to the public meeting the Board sought input on at least two occasions from all of the school Advisory Councils In the Erwin district; and
WHEREAS, as the result of the above process, the Board finds that members of Erwin community use the mascot name "Squaw" as an expression of pride and school spirit and thereby Intend to honor Native American women past and present and intend to honor female students at Erwin High School, and
WHEREAS, Chief Dugan has confirmed that the word has derogatory meaning for her and other Cherokee; and
WHEREAS, the Administration of the Clyde A. Erwin High School has requested that the Eastern Band of Cherokee recommend to the Administration additions and/or modifications to existing media center and curricula offerings that may foster among students and staff a greater understanding of and appreciation for American Indian history and culture; and
WHEREAS, the Board is of the opinion that Its students, employees, Board members, and the community have not shown or intended any disrespect towards Native Americans or to female students; but rather, have shown respect for differing viewpoints and have otherwise engaged properly In the spirit of public discourse and debate that Is central to our democracy; and
WHEREAS, the Board recognizes and finds that Innocent words can acquire negative connotations through modem usage despite historical origins free of such connotations; and
WHEREAS, having considered all reasonably available information pertaining to the use of the names "Warriors" and "Squaws" and their accompanying mascot characters and symbols, the Board finds that some segment of the Native American population which the term "Squaw" is Intended to honor and respect may, In fact, find the term offensive.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Buncombe County Board of Education as follows:
I . That the use of the mascots, names, and symbols collectively known as the "Erwin Warriors" shall continue to be used in the Erwin community schools, including the Warrior statue in front of Erwin High School and the two totems located at the high school.
2. That the use of the mascots, names, and symbols collectively known as the 'Erwin Squaws" shall be terminated no later than the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year. Female athletic teams In the Erwin community schools are specifically allowed to complete the spring 1999 sports schedule using the mascot name and associated symbols.
3. This resolution will become null and void unless a properly executed letter from the United States Department of Justice withdrawing Its Investigation described above is received by facsimile no later than March 4, 1999.
READ, APPROVED, AND ADOPTED this 4th day of March, 1999.
THE BUNCOMBE COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION