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Oregon bans Native American school mascots, images

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:37 PM EDT, Fri May 18, 2012
The Oregon Board of Education has voted to ban Native American mascots at schools across Oregon.
The Oregon Board of Education has voted to ban Native American mascots at schools across Oregon.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Oregon Board of Education bans Native American mascots
  • Schools have until July 2017 to comply with the new rule
  • Debate has also permeated at the college and professional levels

(CNN) -- Public schools in Oregon must discontinue the use of Native American names, symbols or images as mascots following a State Board of Education vote.

Prohibited names include, "Redskins," "Savages," "Indians," "Indianettes," "Chiefs" and "Braves," the board said in a statement Thursday.

The board by a 5-1 vote adopted the rule and gave schools until July 2017 to comply.

"I do not believe any of our schools with Native American mascots intended to be disrespectful," state Superintendent Susan Castillo said in a statement. "Our role as educators needs to be to create a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all of our students — an environment which honors them for who they are as individuals with a rich and varied cultural history. We can no longer accept these stereotypical images for the sake of tradition — not when they are hurting our kids."

The board said it heard more than eight hours of public testimony on the topic and received 700 pieces of written testimony.

Philomath High School in Philomath will be permitted, under the rule, to continue using the name "Warriors," but without imagery that refers to a tribe, individual, custom or tradition.

"We've always been proud of the Warriors. In a majestic sense, we look up and honor the Warrior," senior Emily Klipfel told CNN Eugene affiliate KEZI.

Gordon Bettles, a Klamath tribe member, welcomed the decision.

"What it does for us is removes a weight, removes a pressure," he told affiliate KVAL in Eugene.

"The concept of Native American mascots being hurtful and racist was not new to me," said state board member Serilda Summers-McGee. "However, the testimony we received from students, members of the Native American community, and researchers regarding the impact of Native American mascots on student learning and self-esteem was extremely illuminating."

Lebanon High School, home of the Warriors, may have to spend $200,000 to replace signage, jerseys, letterhead and other items, said athletic director Rob Allen.

"We have an art form of a warrior on a horse, that was $25,000 and so we have to take that off and melt it down and give it to somebody," Allen told KVAL. "What do we do with that?"

The debate over Native American mascots has also simmered at the college and professional sports levels.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has a policy against mascots "deemed hostile or abusive toward Native Americans."

In 2005, the NCAA ordered 20 schools whose nicknames and mascots they deemed "abusive in terms of race, ethnicity or national origin" to either get Native American permission to use their name and likeness, or to come up with new ones.

The University of North Dakota, with its Fighting Sioux, has been the last holdout. The matter has not been resolved, with people in favor and opposing the mascot going to court or the Legislature.

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