By Katy Savage
Rutland City School Board members voted 6-4 Tuesday, Aug. 30 to once again retire the Raiders moniker following state legislation that essentially requires all schools to stop using racist mascots.
The discussion on Tuesday was brief and followed an earlier ad-hoc committee meeting on Aug. 23.
Karen Bossi, who suggested changing the school’s name to simply ‘R’ on Aug. 23, said Tuesday she was concerned changing the name would leave students with no identity.
The board won’t decide on a new mascot until at least its January 2023 meeting.
“I don’t feel it is in the children’s best interest to change it now to only change it again. I think the Raiders name should stay until it’s changed,” Bossi said, adding, “ I don’t see how this is going to work in the meantime. As much as we push, people are going to call them the Raiders.”
The School Board first retired the Raiders name in 2020 due to its controversial connection to Indigenous history. The board changed the name to the Ravens in 2021 (a student-led choice) but the switch led to backlash from community members. The Raider name was reinstated in January 2022, just before state legislation brought the mascot debate to the forefront again.
Gov. Phil Scott signed Act 152 in June, which prohibits mascots that “directly or indirectly references or stereotypes the likeness, features, symbols, traditions or other characteristics that are specific to the race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity of any person or group or persons or organizations associated with the repression of others.”
Some board members argued Tuesday that the Raiders name shouldn’t offend anyone since Indigenous imagery associated with the name is no longer used.
“The combination of the two was the issue at the beginning and now that we’ve removed one part we should be able to just stick with Raiders,” School Board member Stephanie Stoodley said.
Some disagreed. Board member Kevin Kiefaber said the Raider name created an exclusive community. “In this history of Rutland, the Raiders name has been associated with Native American stereotypes for 80 plus years. We can’t just ignore that,” Kiefaber said. “I think the sooner we stop using the Raiders name, the sooner those students are going to feel welcomed in our school.”
School Board member Sarah Atkins Doenges said students and community members are harmed by its continued use.
“We have written proof and word from students and community members that this does harm,” Doenges said. “If we’re working in the best interests for our students and community, the best thing is to put this away.”