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Susquehannock High's use of Warrior mascot sent to diversity committee

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Susquehannock logo on a banner at Susquehannock High School Tuesday, July 28, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

The Southern York County school board won't consider changing Susquehannock High School's Warrior mascot until after the district's diversity committee studies the issue.

The board unanimously agreed to allow more time for an in-depth investigation and analysis of the controversial use of the symbol after hearing numerous arguments from both sides during its monthly meeting Thursday. 

"I am concerned about making a rash decision on this without having the benefit of that in-depth analysis and review," said school board President Robert Schefter. "It's an issue that we need to attend to with a thought-out plan before we make a decision."

Criticism of Native American mascots came to a head this summer, prompting Washington, D.C.'s football team, formerly known as the Redskins, to rebrand.

The debate hit York County after a change.org petition was started  July 24 advocating for the Southern York County School District to replace its high school's mascot. A counter-petition was quickly formed in response.

More:'Warriors' mascot prompts competing petitions at Susquehannock High

During Thursday's board meeting, several parents spoke up on the matter. One was Megan Gilbert, who said the use of Native American mascots perpetuate stereotypes and misconceptions.

"If we truly were committed to honoring the legacy of the tribe that called this part of Pennsylvania home, we would teach our students their history," Gilbert said, adding her children have not been taught the history of the Susquehannock tribe in the classroom. 

Parent Tanya Dozier said she always avoids purchasing school gear with the warhead logo on it. She said her great-grandmother was part of the Cherokee tribe and she has family members who live on a reservation. 

"Native Americans are people and not a trophy for you to display, after you have taken their land and destroyed them," she said. "It may be thought that carrying the name honors the tribe, but I don't think that's accurate."

Susquehannock High School in Glen Rock, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Dennis Schwanke, while agreeing on the need for education to highlight Native American culture, said he believes the mascot should remain.

"It's a history, and I think it's important that people understand that history and where we come from," he said. "If you just remove it and move on, you're just going to forget a whole group of people who, quite frankly, need to be remembered."

School board member Ronald Groncki, who said his wife was a "direct descendant" of the Susquehannock tribe, also sided with keeping the mascot.

"I think we (should) leave things the way they are," he said. "This is, to me, a symbol of pride, a symbol of strength and a symbol of honor as far as I'm concerned." 

While school board officials did not provide a timeline for when a final decision concerning the mascot would be made, Superintendent Sandra Lemmon said she predicts the analysis from the diversity committee will be finished by the spring.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.