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Mascot change request denied

May 17, 2002|BY JULIE E. GREENE

julieg@herald-mail.com

A Kensington, Md., man who asked the Washington County Board of Education to stop using American Indian nicknames and mascots for schools has been turned down by the interim schools superintendent because he doesn't have "standing."

Richard Regan, a Lumbee Indian, has called Washington County "the poster child for racism" in his efforts to get the School Board to stop allowing schools to use American Indian nicknames for mascots.

Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan denied Regan's appeal in a May 7 letter.

"There is no indication from your communications that either you or your family resides in Washington County, or that you have children who attend Washington County Public Schools," Morgan wrote in the May 7 response.

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"Furthermore, there is no indication from your communications that suggests that you personally have suffered any specific harm or injury," Morgan wrote.

"Given the complete lack of standing on your part, there is no cognizable controversy or dispute for me to decide and your appeal is denied," Morgan wrote.

In a telephone interview from his Montgomery County, Md., home Thursday night, Regan said he would appeal Morgan's decision to the Maryland State Board of Education.

"I look forward to putting Ms. Morgan on the stand and under oath and let her tell the world why she defends this racist practice," Regan said.

Reached at home Thursday night, Morgan said she had no comment because this could become "a legal issue."

School Board Vice President Bernadette Wagner said the board supports Morgan's decision to deny Regan's appeal because he does not have a "stake" in Washington County.

Washington County residents who have written to the School Board about the matter viewed the American Indian mascot names as positive ways to celebrate multicultural diversity, Wagner said.

She said the School Board had not received complaints about American Indian mascot names from Washington County residents.

The county has two schools that have American Indian names and mascots - Boonsboro "Warriors" and Conococheague "Indians."

One option the School Board discussed is to create lesson plans celebrating the heritage and contributions of American Indians if the school system continues to use American Indian nicknames for mascots, Wagner said.

Last August, Regan convinced Montgomery County to ban American Indian nicknames and mascots. The school system gave Poolesville High School a year to change its "Indians" nickname.

Regan said Morgan's May 7 response was similar to ones he had received from school boards in Frederick County, Charles County, Harford County, Worcester County and Wicomico County.

"I think they're all getting together and comparing notes," Regan said.

Basically, the response is "I don't live there so why should we pay attention to you," Regan said.

Regan said the School Board's policy seems unclear since it let Pleasant Valley Elementary School change its nickname, but won't have Boonsboro or Conococheague do the same.

Pleasant Valley used the "Braves" nickname, but the principal removed the name to be sensitive to different cultures.

"If they don't think mascot names are a problem, then they shouldn't have let Pleasant Valley change their name," Regan said.

Regan said if the School Board leaves the mascot name up to each school, then what would stop a new school from using a derogatory racial or sexual-orientation term. He named some possibilities.

Wagner said she didn't think the School Board would support the derogatory terms Regan used as school nicknames.

"The board is sensitive to the needs of every student and we wouldn't allow children to be hurt," Wagner said.

Regan filed a civil rights complaint with Morgan in a Jan. 5 letter.

Morgan responded in a Jan. 31 letter, stating, "As a person who has worked extensively in the field of multicultural education and minority student achievement, I am personally committed to eliminating negative stereotypes whenever and wherever they appear."

Regan filed an appeal in a Feb. 17 letter to School Board President Edward Forrest and filed another civil rights complaint against the School Board in a Feb. 22 letter to Morgan.

Regan is a member of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, but is acting on his own, according to a commission spokesman.

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