To the editor: GM school board fails to act in students’ best interest

May 1st was one year since the Vermont Senate passed  a bill that bans discriminatory mascots from Vermont schools.   A year later Chester’s Green Mountain High School is still clinging to its mascot, which violates this act.

Danville decided to retire their “Indians” mascot before the bill was signed into law, and Rutland agreed to retire the much debated “Raiders” name soon after its passage. Even Brattleboro, which had also been tagged as offensive by the NAACP because of its school symbology, agreed to update their own mascot after very little debate.

Green Mountain is the hold out. The school that won’t “give in” to being inclusive. It has been willing to disregard the statements of our Indigenous community over and over again. A representative from the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs presented at a school board meeting than a year ago, and Abenaki opinions are well-documented in all of the proceedings of Act 152.

The school is also ignoring the mounting evidence presented from mental health experts and educational professionals regarding the negative mental health impacts of this mascotry.

On April 10, the school board heard formal complaints from community members who believe that the Chieftain name violates Act 152. Even after hearing the negative experiences of students related to this mascot, the board still has not moved to retire it. More than a month later, the board has still not responded to those complaints.

As an educator, I find it disconcerting that a school board would continue to be willing to disregard the documentation and evidence of negative mental health impacts that was sufficient enough to pass this law. More disturbing than that is its willingness to ignore the voices of the people who are being directly impacted by these stereotypes within our Indigenous community. This includes the Missisquoi Thunderbirds mascot, which the Abenaki community has identified as not offensive to their community.

It is time for the Vermont Agency of Education to intervene and require Chester to comply with Act 152. In a public school, the school board should not be allowed to vote to uphold traditions that are discriminatory or linked with stereotyping behavior. The mental health of our students is too important.

If Chester will not do the right thing on its own, it is the responsibility of the state to intervene. Every day that passes adds to the insult and injustice to our students.

Deborah Velto

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  1. Randy Miles says:

    People there is a difference between a Mascot and the chieftain name they are not both one and the same! A lot of people keep calling Chieftain the mascot? It is not, in any media it does not say Chieftain meaning native american Chief The mascot was an image of a native american that is now long gone. What we have left is the name Chieftain sounds like a native american word but it is not. Few are treating it that way. It’s meaning does not have any link to native Americans other then they as well as many other races used it for its true meaning. A good one at that. So please stop calling it a mascot! My biggest problem with this? It’s a matter of principal for me. The word Chieftain is a very good word and has a great meaning. Please look it up and see. We are now treating this chieftain name that the students of 71 picked out from many others. For the very reason of it’s definition. Leader of People or Clan.This is raciest and hurtful? How can you attack this name chieftain so easily and convert it in to something raciest. The state and school boards job is to fix what needed to be fixed. Remove the native american log/image/mascot. We did Now we are left with Chieftain and Green Mountain. Both ran along side of the mascot/logo both are directly/indirectly tied in some way. Why do we only call the word and meaning of chieftain raciest? Green Mountain represents the Green Mountain Boys. A group of New Hampshire,Vermont militia who fought fearlessly for our state.I myself do not have any problem with Green Mountain or Chieftain. I think the the problem was solved and what we have now is Green Mountain Chieftain Leaders! The word leader tells you just what Chieftain has stood for and means. Its strange how so few can twist something good into something very bad? Please look up the facts and words.The intent of the kids of 71 was good not raciest, the word is good. It is not a native american word and our mascot is gone, Facts.