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Morris mascot committee gives reasons for recommendation

MORRIS – As reported in Tuesday’s Morris Herald-News, the mascot committee organized by Morris Community High School District 101 recommended that the school replace the Redskins mascot by the end of the 2021-22 school year.

A few members of the 19-person committee, which included students, parents, alumni and interested community members, attended Monday night’s school board meeting to give a presentation on why it recommended changing the school’s mascot.

Adrianne McKerrow, assistant principal at Minooka Junior High School and a former standout athlete for Morris Community High School, introduced the presentation.

“At first, we had to get our emotions and thoughts in order,” McKerrow said. “There were many high emotions on both sides, but we all kept an open mind. The first thing we wanted to do was to figure out what a mascot means to a school and to a community. We came up with honor, tradition, pride, values and respect. Keeping those traits in mind, we continued our discussion and came up with our recommendation.”

Lauren Bounds, a junior at Morris Community High School, spoke next. She gave a history of the term “redskin” in which she cited a 2014 article published in the magazine Esquire. The author of the article, titled “A ‘Redskin’ is the Scalped Head of a Native American, Sold, like a Pelt, for Cash,” describes a 1755 proclamation from the lieutenant governor of the Massachusetts Bay Province, Spencer Phips. The proclamation called for residents of the province to take every opportunity to hunt, capture and kill Indians. Bounds said that those that did were paid as much as 50 pounds, or about $12,000 in U.S. dollars today, for the bloody scalps, known as “redskins.”

Bounds also cited an 1863 article in the Winona Daily Republican in Minnesota that said “the State reward for dead Indians has been increased to $200 for every red-skin sent to Purgatory.”

She then said that in today’s world, the word “redskin” is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “offensive – used as an insulting and contemptuous term for an American Indian” and by The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary as “slur, offensive, old-fashioned, taboo – a very offensive word used for Native American.”

Morris Community High School student body president Alex Duffy explains some of the reasons why the Mascot Committee recommended to change the school's mascot.

Morris Community High School student body president Alex Duffy explains some of the reasons why the Mascot Committee recommended to change the school’s mascot. (Rob Oesterle/)

MCHS senior and student body president Alex Duffy then pointed out that, in the school’s student handbook, one of the examples of prohibited conduct is “name-calling, use of derogatory slurs, or wearing or possessing items depicting or implying hatred or prejudice of one of the characteristics stated above. If you are aware of a student(s) being bullied or harassed, please report it to the administration immediately.” Duffy said it is hypocritical for the school to have the policy and to use a derogatory term as its mascot.

Ginger Jones, a parent and committee member, discussed proposed legislation that currently is in committee and would ban schools that use Native American mascots from competing in state competitions. According to the Facebook page of state Rep. Maurice West, the bill’s primary sponsor, House Bill 4783 was not acted upon because of legislative delays because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it likely will be acted upon in its new form in fall 2021, according to the Facebook page. If H.B. 4783 passes and if MCHS continues to use the name and mascot Redskins, none of its extracurricular teams would be allowed to compete for a state championship in any activity.

Jones also addressed the cost involved with changing the name. Superintendent Craig Ortiz and committee members performed a walkdown of the campus to make a comprehensive list of changes required by a mascot change. Ortiz said some items would need to be replaced at their normal rotation (two to three years/seasons) and would not be an extra expenditure in the budget. Cost analysis was based on public, posted MCHS budgets from prior years and cost estimates from suppliers.

Jones said uniforms with the word “Redskins” on them were used in football, baseball and boys and girls basketball. The varsity football uniforms are bought by the Quarterback Club, and the junior varsity/freshman football uniforms would be replaced at the normal two- to three-year interval and would not be an additional expenditure. The committee recommended that baseball and basketball uniforms be rotated out at the regular interval and replaced with a new logo. Volleyball, softball, poms, cheer, band, speech, tennis, track and wrestling do not currently have the Redskins logo.

Replacement of the gym floor is, perhaps, the largest expenditure once the mascot is changed. After meeting with Ortiz, the committee said it understands that the floor is due for replacement in the next two to three years and already is budgeted. Therefore, there would be no additional cost to the district or taxpayers to replace the floor.

Morris Community High School District 101 Board President Scott Hastings (left) and Superintendent Craig Ortiz heard arguments Monday why the board should vote to change the school mascot.

Morris Community High School District 101 Board President Scott Hastings (left) and Superintendent Craig Ortiz heard arguments Monday why the board should vote to change the school mascot. (Rob Oesterle/)

Any newly installed signs, including the school marquee and football scoreboard, do not bear the Redskins name or logo. The committee identified four vinyl signs on fences that say “Redskins” and cost between $400 and $600. The baseball and softball scoreboards and the press box would have to be repainted.

The committee also proposed a process for selecting a new mascot. Committee members suggested getting students involved by having a survey for mascot suggestions, hosting a contest to draw or create a new mascot/logo, and build excitement in the community by showcasing the work of the students. Other options included a return to the committee for input and a survey of the community.

Bev Perry, another committee member, then spoke. She said she is a member of a four-generation Redskins family and that they are “Redskins for life.” However, after hearing the rest of the committee explain why the change is needed, she changed her mind and voted in favor of the committee’s recommendation.

“We will always be proud of being Redskins from Morris High School,” she said. “But I think it’s best for our students to move forward and for the name to change.”

The board will continue to discuss the subject. Ortiz said that the earliest a vote would be taken would be at the June 14 board meeting, but he did not say for certain that it would be taken then.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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