Through informal meetings with school district officials, school administrators, teachers, students, alumni association, community members and Miami Indian representatives, the movement to change the team nickname for North Side High School is picking up steam.
Fort Wayne Community Schools leaders are making it clear that North Side’s current nickname, Redskins, does not represent the intended core values of the district. The nickname is considered by many to be a racial slur.
Among those involved in the meetings, including one Wednesday, have been FWCS superintendent Wendy Robinson, school board President Mark GiaQuinta and North Side Principal Chad Hissong.
"The concern has been bubbling up," GiaQuinta said as he began Wednesday’s meeting at Haller & Colvin’s law office. "We have been having dialogue about this for a couple of years ... the timing is right."
While no formal process has been put in place to change the nickname or even to find a new one, GiaQuinta said it won’t be done by a vote from the board, which is what is being done in Goshen. There, the school board is meeting Monday to possibly eliminate Redskins as its high school’s nickname.
"The board does not see a role in voting on this or saying this is done," GiaQuinta said. "It has already been decided that the use of the nickname is not consistent with our core values (in particular, "the diversity and uniqueness of our district and community.")
"(Decisions being made in this district) start with recognition and leadership, ... but it has expanded into the process that will be very inclusive where stakeholders should have a say. The idea has to start somewhere, and it has to start with a fairly definitive position, ... but where there is enough left to be decided that people feel like they are part of a process."
Robinson said any process for change will be handled as any other major decision is done within the district, with education first and foremost.
The first step, according to Robinson, is informing staff, teachers and students (when school starts Aug. 11) about the conversations and why this step is important to the school and the district.
"We have a process for making decisions in this district and for making massive change," Robinson said. "The students should be the ones who help determine that, but any process we have includes any and everybody who might be a part of it.
"Once we get our direction, we will work with the board to decide which way we are going. At the end of the day, there’s going to be a process for how we get it done. In our conversations we want to take the time to do it right, but we don’t want to take forever to put the process out there."
Nothing has been decided about the process of choosing a new nickname.
The high school was built in the 1920s, when it began using the name. But recently colleges, high schools and even the NFL’s Washington Redskins have already made the change or have been getting pressure to change. In Washington’s case, a federal judge ordered the cancellation of the franchise’s trademark registration, ruling that the team name may be disparaging to Native Americans. The ruling does not bar the team from using the name if it wishes.
"We practice critical thinking on a daily basis, and it is going to require us to do some critical thinking and reflection," Hissong said. "This is going to give us the opportunity to practice some processes that maybe we haven’t applied to this but now this gives us the opportunity to say ‘Is this the right thing to do and is this the right time?’ "
Robinson said the goal is to get a plan of action in place for further talks by the end of August or early September. The process, though, is said to include an all-encompassing group including those in the informal meetings plus others.
She said once any decision is made, attention will turn to address changes with facilities, logos, stationery, etc. All of which, she said, is part of the process.