Despite the Danville school board’s 4-1 vote immediately removing the school’s Indian name on March 23, the community remains vocally divided.
A petition asking the board to reverse their decision has been drawn up and Lindsay Morgan and Dawn Peck Pastula, Danville residents, are organizing a COVID-safe event to allow all who wish to sign it to do so.
Pastula said that she has heard from many who were unhappy with the board’s decision.
Pastula is the organizer of a prior petition to keep the mascot, which was presented to the board just prior to their March 23 meeting and vote. That petition garnered 121 signatures.
Morgan, however, did not even hear about the first petition until after March 23.
“I am one of the hundreds of community members that weren’t aware of the first petition or the discussion of our school mascot,” said Morgan on Sunday. “Now that I’m aware, I’m helping get that awareness out there, so we can come together as a whole community and stop the cancel culture of long-lasting mascots and allow them to be kept.”
The board’s vote to adopt a policy removing the mascot came after almost six months during which the board encouraged discussion and accepted public correspondence on the issue.
The board also held a multi-hour community forum on Zoom on March 3. At the forum, where all were encouraged to speak, everyone who spoke up did so in favor of the change.
However, more than a few in attendance at the March 23 meeting, as well as a portion of the 118 who corresponded with the board on the issue between Oct. 6, 2020, and March 23, 2021, wanted to keep the mascot.
A drive-thru petition signing event was planned for this past Saturday, April 3. However, Pastula and Morgan said late Friday that the event was postponed out of respect for the tragic loss of the young boy in Danville earlier this week.
The rescheduled drive is currently set for Saturday, April 17, though it may be held as early as next Saturday, according to Pastula.
The organizers plan to make the event as COVID-safe as possible, utilizing gloves, masks, and either sanitizing pens or giving petition-signers their own pen to keep.
The petition will be presented to the school board as well as sent to the Vermont House of Representatives and Vermont Principles Association, asking them to deem Danville’s use of the Indian name and the Chief figure as a mascot “non-offensive,” and to allow them to retain their long-standing mascot.
Because of their last-minute decision to postpone the petition-signing event, Pastula and Morgan showed up at the West Danville Park and Ride this past Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in case folks had not received the notice.
Morgan said some Danville residents pulled in to see what was happening and hadn’t even heard about the name change.
She said some community members who stopped by and signed the petition on Saturday thought it should not be the board’s decision, and that it instead should be up to the community. Others thought the school board “had an agenda.”
Pastula said Sunday that 17 people have signed the petition — so far.
When asked about the petition, school board chair Bruce Melendy said in an email: “I would urge everyone to go back through the minutes of the meetings we had in reference to the Mascot issue. I understand the compassion many have regarding the name Danville Indians, however, the Board’s decision is final at this time.”
“If a new Board is formed next Town Meeting Day and want to revisit the Mascot issue, they certainly can,” Melendy said. “I would add that I hope the community can come together, especially after the tragic event earlier this week.”
Danville Middle and High School Principal David Schilling said that nothing has changed at the school since the board’s decision, as the school has not had another sporting event because of COVID-19.
“The board has asked us to change the name as a step toward being more inclusive, and that’s what we’ll do,” said Schilling. “We’re not removing old trophies, banning old spirit gear or anything else. Since before my time, the only place that the word Indians was still present was one end of the gym floor, so not much to remove or change.”
The policy adopted on March 23 prohibits the representation of the School by any race or ethnic group as a mascot, the Caledonian previously reported. It also states that all mascots, names, nicknames, images and descriptors used by school sports teams or clubs shall respect cultural differences and values, and shall be neither derogatory nor discriminatory.
Per the adopted policy, the principals will form and chair a committee to select a new mascot upon written notification from the board. The committee will include at least one student, school counselor, faculty member, parent, and a member of the select board.