Brattleboro mascot debated at community forum

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(Host) More than 80 people turned out Monday night at Brattleboro Union High School to have their say on the Brattleboro Colonel. The school mascot, a confederate colonel, has become a topic of heated local debate. Critics say the image is a symbol of slavery and should be retired.

Students at the high school weighed in on the issue in December. After a series of forums, 62 percent voted to keep the Colonel logo in its current form. In a separate vote, a majority of faculty favored keeping the Colonel name but changing the Confederate image.

Monday night it was the community’s turn, at a hearing sponsored by the high school board. Some defenders of the mascot suggested that a few people were being overly sensitive.

(Speaker) “If we start censoring everything that’s said and done because it might offend somebody, we’re going to have a big job on our hands.”

(Host) Many speakers said the community does have a lot of work to do to combat prejudice. Teacher Karen Saunders was one of several members of multiracial and non-white families who said the image is a source of pain.

(Saunders) “To look at a symbol like the Colonel and not see the implicit racism in it is a real privilege. It means you have the privilege of not having grown up suffering under the yoke of racism. Please use that privilege to do the right thing and change the symbol.”

(Host) While some favored scrapping the Colonel entirely, many applauded the school administration’s efforts at compromise. School principal James Day and Superintendent Ron Stahley have recommended revamping the Colonel’s image. They’re also planning a series of community forums to keep the discussions going.

The mascot’s fate will be decided by the high school board on January 20.

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