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Rutland High sports teams officially switch from ‘Raiders’ to ‘Ravens’

Published: 2/10/2021 9:54:45 PM
Modified: 2/10/2021 9:54:43 PM

RUTLAND — Rutland won’t be the “Raiders” anymore.

The city’s Board of School Commissioners voted, 6-4, on Tuesday to approve the “Rutland Ravens,” a name that a group of Rutland High School students selected after seeking suggestions from city residents and other students in the district.

The on-the-spot approval of the new mascot squeaked into the last meeting before Town Meeting Day on March 2.

Seven candidates are vying for three seats on the school board, and the mascot issue has been central to some of their platforms. In another 4-4 vote, board members rejected a motion to table the decision until the next meeting after the election.

A group of alumni, students and residents asked the district to drop the “Raider” name and its arrowhead imagery in July, citing the racism inherent in the mascot’s origins. In the 1930s, sports reporters compared Rutland High athletes to violent Native American warriors, who were portrayed by cartoon caricatures in the first version of the mascot, the “Red Raiders.”

Board members voted in October to retire the mascot name and imagery, prompting a heated communitywide debate that included the city’s Board of Aldermen and other city officials.

Mayor David Allaire expressed support for maintaining the Raider name.

People advocating to keep the mascot have cited nostalgia, city pride and the cost of new uniforms and rebranded athletic facilities. Joanne Pencak, chair of the board’s finance committee, told the Rutland Herald the estimated transition cost would be $125,000.

The change is part of a movement away from discriminatory mascots across the state and country. It followed the Vermont Principals’ Association statement that “any mascot, nickname, symbol, or logo that has marginalizing, racist, or exclusionary elements should be replaced to demonstrate what it means to be an inclusive, welcoming, and strong community.”

The board asked Rutland High School Principal Greg Schillinger to navigate the transition with students. This fall, he invited students to join a committee assigned to come up with a new name.

After collecting name ideas from the community through a survey, along with the concepts that community members hoped the mascot would reflect, the committee narrowed the most popular choices to the names that they thought symbolized “working hard and persistence,” Moore said.

They landed with four choices: Railers, Ravens, Rams and Royals.

In several additional rounds of surveys among the students, Ravens emerged with the most votes.

Board member Brittany Cavacas questioned the other top mascot names that were selected and said she was confronted during yoga class by a parent concerned that a top mascot choice had been “Railers.”

“That mother was appalled that her student was using it as a sexual connotation,” she said. “As a female, and most females would agree, the word ‘railers’ can be used that way. The reason why her son voted for that was for that reason. There was a large group of that junior class that thought it was really funny that they be called the ‘railers.’ ”

Schillinger replied that “Ravens” was the recommendation from the committee and the administration, and other choices had already been filtered out.

Rutland student and renaming committee member Caleb Dundas clarified that the “Railers” choice was a reference, made through community suggestions, to a historical industry in the city.

“The railroad in Vermont has a huge history,” he said. “The entire plaza downtown with Walmart and Price Chopper used to be a railyard. A railer, if you look at the dictionary definition and ignore the connotation, is someone that built a railroad. That was chosen in good faith.”

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