WEST HARTFORD, Conn. — At a West Hartford Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, the board voted in favor of getting rid of school mascots for Conard High School and Hall High School. That means they'll no longer be known as The Chieftains and The Warriors.
Now, West Hartford neighbors are grappling with the decision.
"I wouldn't say it was an identity but it’s who we were, you didn’t really think about it," said Doug Townsend, who attended Conard High as well as his kids. "I don’t think that the Chieftains or the Warriors from Hall are overboard, so to speak.”
“The Chieftain ones, I see that’s a little border-line. Being of African descent, I know a Chieftain is a common term there, too," said Tope Adekambi, of West Hartford. "But from my perspective, Warriors is a little neutral.”
That same debate has been the talk of the town for years. So much so, back in 2015, the school board voted to change the logos for the two public high schools, getting rid of the Native American symbols. At that time, they kept the name. But now, they’re getting rid of the names and mascots.
"Fast forward to now, over the course of the years, there still has been some discussion and concerns with the names remaining," said Dr. Lorna Thomas-Farquharson, chair of the West Hartford Board of Education.
The motion was brought to the table back in December, because of a new Connecticut law, going into effect next year. The law, known as PUBLIC ACT 21-2, states that municipalities with offensive mascots will no longer get money from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund. Schools must let the tribes know by March 15 if they plan to change their name.
West Hartford gets about $28,000 from that fund each year.
"The purpose for us looking into this was more than a monetary gain or loss. It really was based on the principal of the topic and the principal of the matter," said Thomas-Farquharson.
It is a matter that has offended many people over the years. Thomas-Farquharson said the board has received written input from both local and national Native American tribes, who have essentially expressed disapproval of the usage of the school names.
"Overall, the tone was not approving of using Native American names or logos," said Thomas-Farquharson. “We know that the name 'Warrior' is used in different contexts. However, when the Warriors and Chieftain names were issued as it relates to the high schools, it was specifically associated to Native American culture and imagery."
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From here, there's a multi-tiered process on deciding the names and images of the school's new mascots. It'll be up to the students to decide.
First, West Hartford students from grades 8-12 will offer their suggestions. Each school, Conard and Hall, will narrow down that list. Within each school, they will form committees made up of students, administrators, and staff to further narrow down the list. Those committees will be selected by school administrators. Then, they'll bring the list back to the student body to decide. Finally, the school board will vote on the name at its June 7 meeting.
“As Maya Angelou once said, when you know better, you do better," said Thomas-Farquharson.
Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at email@example.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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