As other schools in Indiana and across the nation have renounced controversial team names and mascots in recent years, Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis has held onto the Redskins.
One of the reasons why the school hasn’t given it up, officials said during a state board of education meeting this week, is because it’s unclear whose responsibility it would be to change the disparaging name.
Is it the obligation of the district, Indianapolis Public Schools, which owns the building and granted the nickname more than 100 years ago?
Is it the duty of the charter operator, Charter Schools USA, which currently runs the school?
Or is it the responsibility of the state, which took Manual out of the district’s hands in 2011, assuming control after years of failing grades?
“I don’t care who’s responsible for it,” said Indiana State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry, as he acknowledged the uncertainty. “I think it’s high time that that mascot be retired.”
The mascot debate resurfaced Wednesday as state officials considered the future of Manual and Howe high schools, which are approaching the end of their state takeover. Charter School USA’s contracts to run the schools, in addition to Emma Donnan Middle School, are slated to expire in 2020, so the schools could return to IPS, become charter schools, or close.
Manual is only one of two Indiana schools still holding onto the Redskins name, a slur against Native Americans. In recent years, Goshen High School and North Side High School in Fort Wayne have changed their mascots in painful processes in which some people pushed back against getting rid of a name that they felt was integral to the identity of their communities.
Knox Community High School in northern Indiana also still bears the Redskins name and logo.
“The term Redskins can be absolutely offensive,” said Jon Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA. “We’ve had no power or authority to do anything about that.”
He suggested that the state board needs to start the process, and that the community should have input on the decision.
An Indianapolis Public Schools official told Chalkbeat the district didn’t have clear answers yet on its role in addressing the issue.
Even if the state board initiates conversations, however, member Steve Yager emphasized that he does not want the state to make the decision on the mascot.
“We don’t have to weigh in on that,” Yager said. “I feel like that’s a local decision.”