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"There's No Way": Neshaminy School District Won't Be Changing Sports Team Name, Imagery

"There's No Way": Neshaminy School District Won't Be Changing Sports Team Name, Imagery | Anti Discrimination | Scoop.it

The sports team name and Native American imagery used by the Neshaminy School District will remain for now.

For years, supporters of keeping the “Redskins” name and iconography in the Neshaminy School District have pointed to the Washington NFL franchise and their steadfast support of their name. On Monday, the NFL team announced that after years of pressure they would be changing their name.

The NFL team has not announced what their new name and mascot will be, but said it will “enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years.”

Last November, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) released a somewhat ambiguous decision that Neshaminy High School must stop using logos and imagery that “negatively stereotype Native Americans” but can keep using the “Redskins” term with the requirement “educational information is provided to district students to ensure that students do not form the idea that it is acceptable to stereotype any group.”

In the months since, Neshaminy has appealed the decision from the PHRC.

The school district’s name comes from the indigenous Lenni-Lenape people’s term nischam-hanne, which means “double stream” and “place where we drink twice.” The Neshaminy Creek runs through the school district in Hulmeville, Langhorne, Lower Southampton, and Middletown. The Lenni-Lenape tribe were not widely known to dress like the images Neshaminy and students often use in relation to their sports teams.

Neshaminy resident Donna Boyle, who is part Cherokee, has for at least eight years asked the school board to change the name and imagery. In 2013, she filed a complaint that the use of the term, mascot, and related imagery caused distress for her child due to their indigenous heritage.

While Boyle celebrated that progress was being made in relation to the NFL team, she has doubts Neshaminy will see the same progress.

“There’s no way it will happen in the district,” she said. “Neshaminy will stick to their guns.”

“I think the school board should be ashamed of themselves. It’s shameful the school board is so clueless,” Boyle said.

She said if the district were to change the name and imagery, it shouldn’t be a race of people.

“It’s just that simple. Just go away from the thing that’s going to cause you problems,” she said.

The debate over the use of the name and imagery in Neshaminy has gained attention from national and regional press over the past years. In 2014, there was a nationally watched fight over whether the high school newspaper could use the term and also over editorial control.

As school systems and sports teams across the country have dropped Native American-influenced names and mascots over concerns they are racist and derogatory, Neshaminy has stuck with their position. They have claimed the choice decades ago was not intended to be insulting and may even be an honor.

In an interview Monday, [Neshaminy School Board President Stephen] Pirritano said the does not see the name and iconography as offensive, but sees it as a way to honor Native Americans. However, he did acknowledge the image of an indigenous man used is not accurate for the type of people who lived in the region.

Pirritano said he wants the district to finish with their appeal of the PHRC decision before their is a larger opportunity to have a discussion about the name and  iconography.

In light on the pandemic, Pirritano said the district’s resources and time have largely been focused on preparing for the upcoming school year, but he noted that there has been support from groups representing indigenous people who wish the district would keep the name and imagery.

On the other hand, Pirritano said he understands there are concerns by others.

Donna Boyle speaking before the school board in 2012. File photo.
Boyle, who is part of Coalition of Natives and Allies, and other people with Native American heritage have long made the point that the district needs to change the name sooner rather than later.

While speaking on the issue, Pirritano admitted that changing or altering the name and imagery “may be for a future school board to decide.”

“It will be a community decision,” he said.

For Pirritano, the issue regarding the PHRC is more about the district retaining local control of matters.

The issue of local control and state overreach is one way Pirritano defends the district spending $331,000 over a six-year period with insurance covering an additional $104,000 in costs.

The school board president has taken issue with the PHRC being involved. He has called the PHRC investigation flawed and a “total overreach.”

johnmacknewtowns insight:

Related Content:

 

  • “Use of Term "Redsk*n" by Neshaminy HS is Not Racist, Neshaminy Witness Testifies”; http://sco.lt/7FJgLh
  • “Term "Redsk*n" is Offensive, Neshaminy Teacher & Former Student Playwickian Editor Testify”; http://sco.lt/7peKzx
  • “A Deeper Understanding of the "Redsk*ns" Conversation”; http://sco.lt/90JeIT
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Anti Discrimination
This board is dedicated to promoting the value of diversity and addressing discrimination based on age, race, color, gender, religion, creed, culture, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin and disability. These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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