WAYNE, NJ – A petition has been going around the social media circles in Wayne asking for signatures to officially have the Wayne Valley High School mascot change from ‘The Indians.’ At this week’s Wayne Board of Education meeting, the petition’s author, Amanda Kiel spoke to the Board, laying out her argument for the change.
Kiel is a current student at Wayne Valley High School and her petition has gained “close to 2,800 signatures,” she said during the meeting. Several former students of Wayne Valley also spoke up during Thursday night’s online virtual meeting.
The issue rose out of the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement. “With recent events surrounding racism both globally and locally,” Kiel stated. “it is time to address the racism present in Wayne and make changes accordingly.”
The incoming WV senior laid out a calm and logical case for the change. “Any race is not a mascot, and if you substitute the name ‘Indians’ for any other race, you can see how wrong this is,” she said. “We are sending Wayne Valley students the wrong message through the use of our Indian mascot.”
Evan Covello, a Wayne Valley class of 2014 graduate added: “It's incredibly insensitive and culturally insensitive. Going forward it will be more difficult to teach a greater amount of inclusive values in our Wayne schools with this name hanging over its head.”
“Why is it NOT ok in the classroom to refer to Native Americans as Indians, and yet for sports on the field, it is ok?” asked Maria Pranzo.
“I have a different viewpoint,” said Former WV student Steve Wildt. “I totally respect their opinion, but I think that if we're going to make a change like this, maybe it should be up to the community and the vast majority of people. Whichever direction that falls, I think that the people should be the ones making the decision and not the select few.”
The petition had gained a lot of publicity recently, as had the issue of racism in general. Dr. Mark Toback, the Wayne Superintendent began the meeting by reading a resolution created by the BOE entitled: “Wayne Board of Education Resolution Against Racism.”
In this resolution, the BOE states their goal for the 2020-2021 school year to establish “a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Goal.”
This goal included several elements one of which was: “Assessing nicknames, mascots, slogans, and school symbols that may be offensive or otherwise counterproductive to our mission, value, and goals.”
The President of the Wayne BOE, Cathy Kazan spoke to TAPintoWayne about the subject. “We are going through a deliberative process, and we will break this down and laid out at the next meeting,” she said.
When asked about the process, Kazan said that the Board sets the goals and the administration goes through the process and makes recommendations. “It may be decided to form a sub-committee to look into the logistics and costs to make the change. It may be decided to hold a referendum. We may survey the school community or the whole town. I don’t have the answers yet, but in situations like this we try to get all stakeholders involved, including the residents of the town.”
Kazan was asked about her personal opinion on the matter. “My personal opinion doesn’t mean any more than any other Wayne resident’s opinion. I won’t make any decision based on how I personally feel.”
It is likely that a decision on the mascot won’t happen any time soon, but the BOE will continue to monitor the goal once it is established.
TAPintoWayne will be following this developing story.