Editor’s Note: There has been a marked lack of student voice in media coverage of the mascot issue at Rutland High School. Principal Greg Schillinger acknowledged the problem last month on WCAX: “People do talk about ‘well this is what the student body thinks,’ but I don’t think anybody has a comprehensive answer…” The student who collected the interviews for this post, Isabella LaFemina, is the student representative to the Rutland School Board. The students’ comments aren’t a “comprehensive answer” but they do comprise a representative range of attitudes.

Students: Is there a divisive issue like this at your school? And a lack of student voice? You don’t need a student newspaper to report on the issues that matter to your community. Please contact Ben Heintz, editor of the Underground Workshop, at [email protected]

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We’re also seeking student reporters to collect interviews with voters on Town Meeting Day, in collaboration with UVM’s Community News Service. Information for students and teachers is here. Please help us spread the word.

The Rutland School Board has been busy fighting over the mascot name. Meanwhile, a divide has occurred among students and adults in the Rutland community. This piece opens the door for student voices to be heard from both sides.

Many students were eager to speak, and some wished to not be photographed. Underclassmen tended to be less open to speaking for this article. Many asked, “Wait, we have a mascot?”

“I don’t care about the mascot, just the name. I feel like it’s disappointing and immature of (the board) and it makes all of Rutland look like a laughing stock. I feel like the morale has been up since the Raider name change but nothing drastic has changed.”

“I really don’t care, as someone who is partially Native American. But in my opinion, the pride behind the Raider name is where it comes for me. And I understand the arrowhead — that is where most of the problems stem from. There are professional sports teams like the Las Vegas Raiders — no one has a problem with them because they have a pirate. I feel like the arrowhead causes more problems than it should, and I feel like the school board has to do better. The way they talk about stuff, it’s not productive or efficient.”

“I feel like it should change to Ravens. There is a huge movement going on throughout the United States, and for Rutland to take action through that and change our name to Ravens — I think it’s smart. It’s something we can do. It’s simple. It’s not that hard. It’s just a name. I don’t think the board has conducted themselves in the way that they should. Some of the comments and actions of the entire board have been really childish. If you are an adult on the school board, you should be acting like an adult, not a child fighting… this is a continuing issue that is unnecessary.

“I don’t really care that much. It’s really confusing, and they have made it a really big deal. I just think that a lot of people are too angry about it.”

“We are both Raiders. When I was younger, I would love to come to football and basketball games and it was a great experience. It got changed through our football season and we were just called ‘Rutland’ or ‘the Ravens,’ which I didn’t personally like. – Fuller

“I agree with him. It’s always been the Raiders so I don’t really want to change it.”- Hayden

“I like the Ravens. Raiders is racist and we know that now. The board was childish and embarrassing. Our school seems to be very split on the issue. I have watched a few school board meetings and I’m disappointed in how they treat each other, and even students.”

“I am a Ravens supporter. The school board acted childish. The school environment has been trash because the board can’t even act accordingly.”

“I really want to have the Raiders name because it’s been here forever and my siblings graduated as Raiders. For my cheer team, we had to stop saying ‘lady raiders’ before every competition, but it’s nice to be able to say it now. When they changed it to Ravens, I think they only looked at the side that thought it was offensive and not the side of the kids that wanted Raiders.”

“It should be switched to Ravens, because the Raiders has a racist history, and I really don’t think that should be what our school should represent. I think it’s kind of stupid that the board switched back and forth because it makes them seem indecisive, and they should just make a decision and not drag it out. I don’t like how our school has a racist background to it.”

“I don’t really care either way, it just feels like it’s getting in the way of all of the other issues in the system. There are some kids that talk about it A LOT. It feels like it’s been elongated a lot and it could’ve been shortened.”

“I am a Raider, because I have always been a Raider and I support them. I didn’t watch any of the board stuff. It is very split, but I feel like the Raiders don’t get as much support as the Ravens have been getting, and I feel like more people need to be heard.”

(Montgomery-Concha was part of the committee that spearheaded the name change to Ravens in 2020.)

“I lean towards the Ravens, by a lot. I did get a series of death threats from full-grown adults in my Facebook messages. The board acted like children at a lunch table.”

“I’d say I don’t really care about the mascot. I feel like it has brought a lot of drama and fighting in the community… The Raider name — they feel like it represents them (athletes) and for some reason, they feel like if we take it away, it’s all gone.”

Interviewer: “Do you think that?”

“No, not really. I feel like they shouldn’t have brought it back because it was already resolved, but the people voted and they wanted it to come back.”

“Personally, I want to stick with the Raiders because it’s been here forever. I think it’s getting kind of stressful for students and parents because we don’t really know if we can wear Raider gear and if we will get judged for it, so it adds stress to an already stressful environment.”

“I think it should be Ravens. I think it was really immature and embarrassing how the board has been acting. The school environment has been very aggressive and split.”

“I have irrelevant feelings towards the mascot; it affects me in no way. I find it really ironic that there are board members who purposely went onto the board for this sole reason. I am glad we have passionate board members, but I wish that passion was put elsewhere. I feel like, at first, students were really passionate about it, and then it was demeaned, and the message got cast aside.”

“I don’t really have a preference honestly, but I think Raider because — I understand the racist connotations, but I also think once you remove some aspects of it, like the arrowhead — because there are other schools that have worse mascots, and I think there are other issues that are a lot more prominent than a mascot.

“I think the board has been immature, and I think if they are supposed to represent the school they should talk to the students more, instead of making their own decisions of what they think is best. I don’t know if it has any correlation, but the fights have become a lot more prominent, like once every day for a week. I think a lot of people have very strong opinions or no opinion at all so they conduct themselves based on their opinion.”

“I feel that if they are going to make a decision like that they should keep it like that and stick with their decision. I didn’t think we should keep something with a bad history like that. If they are going to make a decision, go all the way. Do it all.”

“It doesn’t really matter to me. The board didn’t handle the situation very well. It delayed any other decisions that needed to be made.”

“I lean with the Raiders. I don’t like how it’s been dragged on so long. I think the board has been a little childish about it, but I like that they came together and, you know, we are the Raiders again.”

“I would rather have the mascot be Raiders. I play football and I like the dynamic when we are Raiders. I feel like it’s a smart idea to keep it Raiders because it would be a lot of money to change it.”

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