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Nov 2, 2015 6:51 PM

Parent: Rochester school's mascot, team name culturally insenstive

ROCHESTER - The mother of a Spaulding High senior wants the school to change its mascot: a red-skinned Native American.

Renee Napolitano, who is not of Native American decent, said she recently became concerned that the mascot and athletic team name - the Red Raiders - wasn't culturally sensitive.

“I mean nowadays we all just look at it like the red color, for the most part, but to a Native American – "Red Raider" means the "red Indian," she said.

Napolitano, who said she was the second person within a 10-year period to ask the school to change its mascot, first sent a letter to the school district last month requesting the change.

According to Napolitano, she was motivated to write the letter because of "social issues" continuously faced by her Native American friends that she grew up with in Old Town, Maine - home of the Penobscot Indian Nation. The town's mascot used to be the Indians, but was later changed because it was offensive, Napolitano said.

Since writing to the school district and making headlines in the press, Napolitano said she has received threats and criticism. But she said it's only fueled her effort to get things changed.

Although not a Spaulding High graduate, she said the school could easily find a similar spirit with a different mascot. But according to current students, making such a change to the school's long tradition would not be easy.

“A lot of students here and a lot of teachers really do want to keep the mascot," said senior Angela Polychronis.

School officials didn't return a voice message as of press time, but students said the administration has started to limit where they can display the team's name and logo.

"We’re not allowed to use the word Red Raider on our clothing, but we’re also not allowed to have a Raider face [at athletic games] so it’s kind of becoming an issue," Polychronis said.

While the logo and team name appears to be in dispute inside the high school, the city's mayor said a large Red Raider logo on the floor of a city-owned gymnasium next door would not be removed during regularly-scheduled resurfacing this month.

Meanwhile, some former high school students told NH1 News they’d be open to a new team name.

“I am not offended by the old name, but it would be interesting to know what might they call it," said David Pare, who attended the high school during the 1960's. "Why not?" he said.

Napolitano's letter is scheduled to be reviewed by school district officials at a meeting later this month.

Meanwhile, current students are curious to see what happens.

“I think we just have to wait for it to blow over again," said Polychronis. "Or maybe we will just make a change so that it doesn’t have to be an issue again.”

Napolitano's letter sent to the Rochester school district:

Dear Superintendent Hopkins ;

My husband and son are both alumni of Spaulding High School, and my daughter Christina is currently a senior at Spaulding. I would like to give my input into the debate regarding the schools mascot, The Red Raiders. I grew up in Old Town, Maine, home of the Penobscot Indian Nation, and the Old Town High School mascot was the Indians. Many of my friends and classmates lived on the Island and still do, and in my younger years I was really ignorant and unaware of some of the social issues they were facing, and continue to face today. Thankfully Old Town High School finally changed this mascot as it was offensive to many American Indians in that region. Of course it was difficult for some community members to accept this change. The March article in the newspaper points to the reason that our school still uses the Red Raider mascot is because many Alumni and community members associate it with good memories? And it is deeply rooted in tradition with pride?? What about the respect for the pride and traditions of the American Indians who are offended by this stereotypical representation of a violent, aggressive feather-wearing warrior ? If our mascot offended any other group of people, including African American, or Irish, or Italian American etc.,or a religious group or the disabled or handicapped, or was offensive to women, I would imagine this would have been changed long ago. Why is it then acceptable to maintain a symbol that depicts the only true original Americans in a way that makes them seem frozen in time; a historical perspective that neglects to honor the fact that Native Americans continue to struggle to thrive in THEIR own country today, the great United States of America? Surely we can find a mascot that does not offend anyone. Now not liking a name, and being offended by it are two different things. I am sure no matter what name is chosen to replace the Red Raiders, some will grumble…perhaps they won’t love the name change. But it will not strike into the essence of who they are, and misrepresent their culture and identity in today’s world as this current mascot does. I would like to urge you to take action on this issue immediately, as it has long ago been agreed upon by the New Hampshire Board of Education and The U.S commission on civil rights that this is no longer an acceptable mascot. The longer you wait, the more it harms and hurts multiple generations of proud Native American Indians, and insults those of us that honor and respect them.

Respectfully; Renee Napolitano

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