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State board shouldn't sidestep mascot issue

September 05, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

In an action appropriate to a sports-related dispute, the Maryland State Board of Education tossed the ball back into Washington County's court last week, ruling that the local school board must decide whether Indians are appropriate as mascots for school teams.

The state board should decide this one itself, since the complainant is determined to take on every system in Maryland. A decision now at the state level would save the locals a great deal of time and money.

Richard Regan, a Lumbee Indian from Kensington, Md. who has already persuaded Montgomery County to stop using Indian images, in February asked Washington County to do the same.

In a statement that seemed calculated to inflame, Regan called Washington County "the poster child for racism" for using the Indian images. He also said that Western Maryland is "conservative, rural and nonprogressive in its thinking."

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He had apparently not heard about Washington County's Pleasant Valley Elementary School, where Principal Robin Handler changed the school's "Braves" nickname for the 2002 school year - well before Regan arrived on the scene - to be sensitive, she said, to those of different cultures.

Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan rejected Regan's claim, saying that as a non-resident of the county, he had no standing to make the complaint.

Regan then appealed to the state board, which ruled that the local board must decide if the school mascots are offensive before another hearing at the state level.

We suggest the local board decide quickly, then toss the decision back to the state board, which should have made the decision in the first place.

Regan has said if he loses at the state level, he'll take it to federal authorities. We're curious to see how the feds would justify banning the low-key logos used by the Boonsboro Warriors and the Conococheague Indians when they haven't said a word about the offensive and cartoonish Indian images used by some of the nation's professional sports teams.

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