Sen. McCormack: It’s demeaning to mascot somebody

Sen. Dick McCormack stands by his bill to give all children a safe learning environment. Click the image to read the bill.

Sen. Dick McCormack stands by his bill to give all children a safe learning environment. Click the image to read the bill.

By Cynthia Prairie
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Sen. Dick McCormack speaks of his bill  — now Act 152 of 2022 — with conviction.

That bill now bans mascots at Vermont public schools that depict racial or ethnic individuals or groups or their customs to ensure a safe learning environment. Recent actions of the board of the Green Mountain Unified School District to comply with the law has divided Green Mountain High alumnae, families and its communities, from Baltimore to Andover.

In October 2021, the year before Act 152 was signed by Gov. Phil Scott, the GM board had removed the “Indian head” logo from use at Green Mountain High. Then, in January of this year, the board retired the name “Chieftains.” Both actions have been met with praise and anger.

Then just last Thursday, the vote to retire the name was rescinded during a contentious but respectful board meeting attended by about 25 pro-Chieftain members of the public. Rescinding the January vote will allow the board to either hold a meeting to hear from the public on dropping the name or to consider rebranding the name.

McCormack, who represents Windsor County in the state legislature, says matter-of-factly, “The name the Chieftains has a history,”  referring to the 50-year-old Indian head logo. In this country, he adds, “we do have a history of racism … and many of our sports mascots derive from that time.”

“I think that it is demeaning to mascot somebody. But defenders will say ‘but it is a tribute.’ But, it is a tribute without asking the person. … The bottom line,” he says, “is that we should treat one another with respect and dignity. And it is disrespectful to treat (people) as mascots.”

He spoke with The Telegraph on Monday about the law, which he says upholds the ideal that “every kid in Vermont is entitled to a public education without being humiliated or degraded.” He adds, “Every child in Vermont has a constitutional right to a public education.  … The Supreme Court said that because the right is in the state Constitution, it is the state’s responsibility to see to it that every kid has a right to a public education … without being demeaned.”

In addressing the divide at Green Mountain, McCormack says, “People’s rights are involved. The people who liked the old mascot probably feel that the state is taking away their right to run their own school the way they want to. … The students have rights as well …

“When we talk about freedom, it is never a debate between being for or against. We all want a lot of freedom. It’s all about whose freedom it is to do what to whom,” he says.

“I have been scolded by people who say we have been taking away their rights to mascot someone,” he says. But he adds that the price of a student enjoying their right to a public education “should not be being demeaned and disrespected.”

He says he knows that there will be public push back. But if need be, he says, the final decision could be up the Agency of Education.

And while no penalties are in the law for non-compliance — a fact that McCormack says he regrets — the AOE does have “standards for judging what is an appropriate mascot and they have procedures for aggrieved citizens if they believe that that standard has been violated.”

He adds, “I am not a Chester taxpayer, I’m not a Chester student or a Chester parent, but if I were I would want that name dropped. …

“I trust the school board to do the right thing.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Education NewsLatest News

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 40 years. Cynthia has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland, and has won numerous state awards for her reporting. As an editor, she has overseen her staffs to win many awards for indepth coverage. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

RSSComments (4)

Leave a Reply | Trackback URL

  1. Victoria Gardner says:

    It’s really odd to bring out the Einstein quote that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” when that’s exactly what keeping a racist team name is doing. You’re using the same racist team name over and over again while expecting people who know it to be racist to simply forget about it. We won’t forget it and neither will history, and that’s regardless of whether republicans ban the books about it or not. But they are. So that’s why they’re anti education, Stu.

  2. Matthew Gorsky says:

    I am a Chester Resident. I am a Chester Voter. I am also Native American. The indigenous peoples in this country occupy an odd spot when it comes to discriminatory practices. We’re not dark enough to be considered PoC and we’re not light enough to be considered White. We’re also treated often as if our culture and traditions no longer exist because of the cultural genocide committed by the United States against the native peoples. People treat discriminatory practices against Native Americans as if they don’t matter. No one would ever suggest making a mascot out of a Black/Hispanic/White person, but feel it is their Right to do so with Native Americans.

    I’ve heard the talk of rebranding. Yes, there are numerous kinds of people who might be considered chieftains of their people throughout the world, however in the United States, the word will nearly always illicit the thought of Native Americans as depicted in media. There is no true separation between that word and that image, especially after 50 years of use as such.

    Simply put, the mascot and name are both racist and racially charged.

  3. Stu Lindberg says:

    Dick is concerned about safe learning environments in Vermont public schools but his voting record reveals blatant hypocrisy.

    In a past commentary in The Mountain Times, “Something to Write Home About,” Windsor County state senator Dick McCormack bloviates about “respecting the education fund.” He claims that he would never raid the education fund for other purposes, due to his strong support for Act 60.

    Contrary to his present-day promise, McCormack fully supported then Governor Shumlin’s $27 million raid of the education fund in 2011 — a move that the Democrats claimed needed to happen to balance general fund overspending. The senator admitted as much at the 2012 Cavendish legislative candidate forum. He states “I did support a bill that included shorting the education fund after Governor Shumlin very cleverly realized we could short the fund and use federal money to cover that loss.” Here is a link to the video:

    As usual, everyday Vermonters suffered at the hands of Montpelier’s reckless spending and the hypocrisy of our supposed representatives. In the town of Cavendish alone, McCormack’s raid drove up our education property taxes by 11 percent even though the school board level-funded the budget that year.

    If I had a dollar for every time that I’ve heard the false accusation, “conservatives are anti-education,” I would very likely be a millionaire today. Perhaps, I would have even accumulated enough to replace the $27 million stolen by the McCormack from the education fund and the Vermont taxpayer in 2011.

    Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I would like to ask Windsor County voters – why do you choose McCormack given his proven record of duplicity?

  4. Victoria Gardner says:

    Hear hear. I think we miss out on the purpose of sports by getting so caught up in the team name, which doesn’t have to be racist and should be subject to change if it is. They used to teach things like Shakespeare when I was a kid in school, that’s when I learned a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. The purpose of sports is not lost on kids by changing the team name. The team name is not the point.

    The point of sports is to develop and promote teamwork, to work hard *together* for a common goal or collective achievement.

    It’s a shame, then, that the adults of this town couldn’t see the forest for the trees on that one. And instead of hearing out a child who has been racially abused, they decided it would be a better priority, and common goal, to reuse a racist team name.

    I can’t believe any reasonable adult would hear the school is basically permitting racial abuse and then validate that by making a racist team name the priority in the same meeting. That’s sad. I know we don’t have a lot of sidewalks, but students should stage a walk out.