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Search for new mascot can unite us

Although it was not a surprise, last week's announcement by the state board of education concerning high school mascots still felt like a sucker-punch to many residents of Banks and the seven other communities that are being forced to drop the Native American nicknames for their public high school sports teams.

We weren't thrilled with the decision-making process, which didn't allow local school officials or students to have any input outside of board hearings in Salem. And, we would have liked to see more discussion of the model adopted in Wisconsin, which has allowed dozens of schools to keep their Native American mascots after showing that they didn't promote discrimination or stereotypes.

We doubt that it would have made a difference in the outcome, but it would have gone a long way toward helping those who oppose the change feel like their views were valued.

Still, we understand the board's impatience. After six years of on-again, off-again discussions on the emotional topic, the board decided to act, and did so decisively, in a 5-1 vote making Oregon the only state in the union with such a ban.

The state's eight high schools (and an unknown number of junior high and elementary schools) now have until 2017 to comply with the board's directive or risk losing some state funding.

And while last Thursday's ruling still stings for those who hoped to keep their team names, we urge officials at the affected schools to accept it and move forward, understanding that a significant number of Native Americans living in Oregon and elsewhere found the mascots offensive.

Five years is ample time to retire the proud Braves mascot and find a suitable replacement. Mascots, after all, are supposed to be a symbol of community unity, not divisiveness. Banks and other communities now have an opportunity to come up with a name and symbol that instills a new sense of pride, without offending others.




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