BELMONT – By a 3-1 margin, residents and students at a special student council meeting Wednesday night voted to keep the school's Red Raider mascot and the face on the school logo, which features a caricature of an American Indian and a headdress.
Because of the heavy opposition to changing the mascot, it looks like the school will stay with it, said Principal Daniel Clary.
"The vast majority of people like the Red Raider, and we're sticking with that unless the school board decides differently," he said.
Of about 75 people who came to the meeting, 48 stayed late to fill out student ballots on the mascot issue, which was brought to the council by students concerned that the image is unflattering, disrespectful, and to some, a racist stereotype.
The results of the poll were 12 in favor of changing the mascot, with 36 in favor of keeping it.
At the meeting, several adults and citizens spoke on the issue in what many in attendance remarked was a very well run, respectful meeting, with loud applause from the audience to all points of view expressed. No angry voices were raised.
Belmont Selectman Ron Cormier, an alumni of the high school who wants to keep the mascot and logo as is, said the meeting was better than most meetings in town. He urged the students to put the issue on a town ballot.
"There are more people here than I usually see at town meeting," he said, bringing laughs from the audience.
As the meeting went on, it was clear that most people in attendance – including almost every student who spoke – also favored keeping the mascot and logo as they are.
The three student council members who gave a presentation Wednesday night will give the same presentation soon to the Shaker Regional School District School Board. Juniors Taylor Becker and Ashley Fenimore and sophomore Andrew Bragg will also present the results of the poll to school board members, who will have the final say in the matter.
Bragg led the presentation and responded directly to several students who rose to speak against it. He and his fellow councilors explained that Native Americans do not like images of stereotypical warriors used at mascots.
The council members played a video featuring American Indians speaking against the stereotypes commonly used in mascots. At the end of the presentation, Fenimore explained that the issue came up in a social studies class, and after some discussion, council members decided they wanted to change the face on the logo.
The students favored keeping the Red Raider name but said they didn't want an ethnic stereotype attached to it, so they want to remove the face.
As the meeting when on, others suggested that the school should drop the "Red" in Red Raiders. By doing that, student Matt Leclair said, the school would "get rid of the racial slur ahead of the Raider."
But student Cory Yelle spoke directly to Bragg from the podium, strongly disagreeing with any change.
"We honor the logo, it represents sportsmanship and character. The logo is on our shirts, the other teams see it for a second and then we get on with playing the best game we can and honoring our school," he said.
Yelle's sister, freshman Taylor Yelle, wore a Red Raiders team uniform to the meeting.
Before she graduated to Belmont High School, "I was looking forward to wearing this Red Raider shirt, it's a symbol of pride and honor," she said to applause.
At the end of the meeting, Clary and other teachers and administrators at the meeting were beaming, happily surprised that the meeting went so well, and that the students brought the issue to the public.
"I can't think of many times that I've been more proud of a group of people as I am of these students," Clary said, to loud applause from the crowd.