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Bellefonte school board returns to Native American logo and ‘Red Raiders’ nickname

BASD Red Raider sign.jpeg
Emily Reddy
Whether to keep or change Bellefonte's Red Raider nickname and logo became a heated topic within the school district. On Tuesday night, the new school board overturned the previous board's decision to get rid of the controversial name and image.

The Bellefonte Area school board voted Tuesday night to return to the "Red Raiders" nickname and Native American chief logo, reversing the previous board’s decision to change the name to the “Raiders” and drop the controversial image of an American Indian wearing a feathered headdress.

The makeup of the board has changed since the last vote, including the addition of "Win4Bellefonte" candidates who ran in opposition to the changes.

Kathy Pletcher, a Walker Township resident and a tribal member of the Bad River Ojibwe Eagle Clan, was one of about ten Bellefonte residents to speak out against changing the name and logo back.

“Please bring this racial healing to our Bellefonte community and this Bellefonte school institution by keeping your mission to transform and to prepare our students for the future and not cling to the past with these outdated notions,” Pletcher said.

Board president Jon Guizar pointed to the cost of the changes as a reason he reversed his previous stance and voted to go back to the old image and name for now.

“What I would be saying to the minority groups that spoke here tonight is that I made a mistake,” Guizar said. “I was not doing my fiduciary responsibility to this district by understanding the cost and the impact to the taxpayers.”

The cost to change the image on scoreboards, gym floors and elsewhere is estimated at around $100,000.

Guizar also said the time restraints on last April’s motions were too restrictive. They would have required the changes to be made within a year.

“And they’re putting time limitations on the district and enhancing division in our community,” Guizar said. “We just need to reset the clock back to when this happened and move forward in a different path that’s more respectful to all the groups and that is going to have more input in the process.”

A committee tasked with coming up with a new mascot had recently presented three options to the board.

The board voted 6-2 to rescind the motion to remove the Native American logo, with board members Julie Fitzgerald and Donna Smith voting no. They also voted 6-2 to rescind the motion to remove “Red” from the name, with board members Fitzgerald and Marie Perini casting votes against the turnaround.

The board talked about continuing to work on rebranding and gradually phasing out the Native American chief logo, but no new motions were passed despite encouragement to do so by Fitzgerald.

Emily Reddy is the news director at WPSU-FM, the NPR-affiliate public radio station for central and northern Pennsylvania.