Belding deciding whether to ditch Redskins mascot

Ionia County

BELDING, Mich. (WOOD) — Belding High School is home of the Redskins, but the school has been downplaying that mascot for years over fears of legal problems from those who view the mascot as offensive. Now, parents are fed up, demanding the school either bring back the mascot or pick a new one.

“They (parents) are like, ‘How can our kids have school pride when they’re not allowed to show their mascot?'” Belding Area Schools Superintendent Brent Noskey said.

Belding has used the Redskins mascot since the 1940s, but started to shy away from it in 2008.

“I think the public says we’re hiding the logo. It’s just kind of been kept on a down-low,” Noskey said.

Noskey, who has been the superintendent in Belding only a few months, said he was told the district made that decision because of pressure from potential federal and state laws that would prevent the use of any Native American mascots.

“The board’s stance for the past eight years (is) we’re just going to keep it quiet, we’ll use the English ‘B’ as our logo,” he said. “We’re still the Redskins, per se, but because of the pressures that could move us into being banned from using it, they didn’t want to spend tax dollars to keep promoting that logo and the Redskins term.”

This spring, a group of parents voiced their frustration, angry that their kids couldn’t show their school mascot on clothes or signs. Hundreds of people signed an online petition asking the district to make a decision.

Carmen Barker started that petition. She has six children, three of whom are still students in Belding. She said the tipping point was when the former superintendent called her and strongly encouraged her sons not to wear T-shirts with the mascot on them when one of them made it to the state wrestling tournament.

“We had the shirts designed and made and printed my husband and paid for them. We were heading to Detroit for that competition when I received a phone call from our then-superintendent,” Barker said. “I didn’t understand why and that did make me angry. I asked if there was a school policy against wearing a Redskin, were we still the Redskins because as far as I know we still were.”

The superintendent explained the shirts weren’t against any school policy, but they wanted to shy away from the controversial mascot and name that some see as offensive. Her son ended up wearing the shirt anyway.

But that didn’t resolve the bigger question.

“When we came back from the competition, I asked the superintendent how we could get this on the agenda,” she said. “I wanted to bring it to our board of education and find out what the reasoning was, and are we the Redskins or not.”

Barker said she doesn’t really care what the mascot is — she just wants the high school to have one.

“It’s not about what I want,” she said. “It’s not about what one person wants. It’s about what our community as a whole, as a school district, wants and our students want.”

Now, the district is holding meetings to figure out whether the mascot should stay and be shown or be replaced.

But if there are concerns about racism, why not just get rid of the mascot and choose something else?

“I think you have to take all parties into account,” Noskey said. ” We have members in this school district that have been proud to be Redskins for the last … 70-some years. We also have Native Americans that live in our town that are proud to be a Redskin.”

The school board will set a time and date to discuss the issue at a meeting Monday night. The goal is to reach a resolution by the start of the new year.

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