West Hartford

West Hartford School Board Votes to Change High School Nicknames

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West Hartford is the latest community in the state to change the nicknames of its high schools.

It came after a passionate debate about the use of the nicknames, “Warrior” and “Chieftain.”

On Tuesday, the school board voted in favor of changing them and setting a goal of finding new ones in the coming months.

It could be the end of a process that started years ago amid controversy over these nicknames.

At a West Hartford school board meeting on Tuesday, people fought to keep Hall High’s nickname of the Warrior and Conard High’s nickname of the Chieftain.

“I’m a lifelong West Hartford resident and proud Hall Warrior class of 2001,” said one community member.

Others argued it was time to end them.

“The use of these names has troubled me since I began teaching and coaching at Conard in 1979,” said another community member.

In 2015, the board back then voted to change the schools’ logos in light of a debate about their use of Native American imagery.

But the names were kept.

“As a freshman, I recalled my older peers wearing shirts that pictured a Native American wearing a traditional headdress,” said one student.

“As soon as you’re brought in as a freshman for the Hall football team, we learned what a Hall warrior athlete is. We learned resilience, perseverance, responsibility and respectfulness,” said another student.

Now some board members believed it was time to revisit the issue.

The district potentially faced losing grant money from local tribes and there’s also a new school equity policy.

“Because of that policy it is incongruent with what we are talking about now,” said Dr. Lorna Thomas-Farguharson, the school board chair.

Board members in support of the change argued the names could be considered disrespectful and new ones could help bring people together.

But others defended the names.

They pointed out a poll that found most students at one school wanted to keep theirs and they wished more outreach had been done.

“We appear to be rushing the decision,” said Ethan Goldman, a school board member.

Now committees made up of school staff, teachers, students, parents and others will aim to pick new names by June 7.

And the hope is the old names can be replaced starting with the new school year in the fall.

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