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Appeal filed over use of Indian nicknames

May 29, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A Kensington, Md., man has appealed to the Maryland State Board of Education the decision by Washington County Interim Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan to continue using American Indian nicknames for schools.

The Washington County Board of Education has until June 14 to file a response to the state board on Richard Regan's appeal.

Morgan could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Morgan, in a May 7 letter, rejected Regan's request to stop using the Boonsboro Warriors and Conococheague Indians nicknames, stating that Regan doesn't have children in the school system and that there's no evidence he has suffered specific harm or injury as a result of the nicknames being in place.

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Regan, a Lumbee Indian, wrote in his complaint that the School Board is violating state code, which he said recommends that schools should "provide an environment that avoids misrepresentation and discourages stereotypes."

He said he is not sure how the state board will rule on his appeal, but said it recently dismissed his appeal concerning Frederick County Public Schools' use of American Indian nicknames. He said the appeal was dismissed because he did not meet with the school system's superintendent on the matter.

He also has appeals pending before the state board dealing with Montgomery and Harford counties, he said.

Regan, who said he thinks using the names promotes racism, said he'll appeal to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights if the state Board of Education rejects his appeals, including the one regarding Washington County.

Regan has asked school systems across the state that use the nicknames to stop doing so. He said that while systems and residents in other parts of the state have resisted his requests, they were willing to listen and debate the issue.

He said he hasn't received the same response from Western Maryland school systems and communities, including Washington County.

"There is a nastiness to it, a bitterness," Regan said. "What rock did these people crawl out from under? I've theorized that diversity is just something that those folks out there don't understand yet."

Washington County School Board member J. Herbert Hardin said Tuesday night that the board received advice from its lawyer to all but ignore Regan's request. He called Regan's attempts to remove the nicknames "fanatical."

"He has no standing in this county," Hardin said. "If you respond, then you begin to draw his attention more."

Hardin also dismissed the idea that the School Board is racist and said the community supports the use of the names.

"I guess he has to live and thrive with some cause, and this is his cause," Hardin said. "There's not a thing we're going to do to change his mind."

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