BELMONT — About 70 people, including dozens of Belmont High School students, came to a special student council meeting Wednesday night at which three students explained they don't want to change the school's mascot name, Red Raiders.
Juniors Taylor Becker and Ashley Fenimore and sophomore Andrew Bragg said they do want to change the image in the Red Raider logo, which features a drawing of an American Indian face.
They played a video showing American Indians who said they felt associating their culture with sports teams is racist. Several speakers on the video said, "I am not a mascot."
Bragg said an American Indian who was recently a student at the school also complained about the logo.
"Many students don't associate with the Red Raider; they associate with Belmont High School," Fenimore said.
Still, she said, people who call themselves Red Raiders will be able to continue to call themselves Red Raiders if the face of the mascot is changed.
"Once a Raider, always a Raider," she said.
John Goegel of Canterbury, a coach at the school, agreed.
"Using Native American mascots was never meant to be offensive" to American Indians, he said, "We might want to change the perception of the Red Raider. I think it's time for a change."
Belmont Selectman Ron Cormier, an alumni of the school, was one of many in the audience speaking in favor or keeping both the image and the Red Raider name.
"Before you consider changing the Red Raider, consider what the Red Raider actually means to all of us who went here," Cormier said, to loud applause.
State Police Trooper Eric Shirley, a father of students in the school and a member of Friends of Belmont Football, said he was opposed to changing the mascot. He said he doesn't see the American Indian image on the school mascot as a negative symbol.
"I see it paying homage to the warrior spirit (of American Indians), not as a bad perception of (an American Indian)," Shirley said.
Speakers were evenly split on the proposed change. The crowd applauded equally for each viewpoint expressed.
Earlier this week, Superintendent Maria Dreyer said the school debated changing the name about 12 years ago, but instead changed the logo, replacing an American Indian face with "more of a contemporary face, a figure of a face."
Dreyer said the idea of changing it further came from several student council members.
Principal Dan Clary said the Shaker Regional School District school board will have the ultimate say in whether the mascot and logo are changed.
An informal poll at UnionLeader.com had garnered 875 responses Wednesday night.
Eighty-four percent of polltakers were opposed to changing the Red Raiders' name and logo.