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Mascot issue rises again

Students walk past the Warrior mascot artwork on the side of Lebanon High School. Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio, will introduce a bill again in February that would allow Oregon schools a way to keep mascots, nickhames and logos that depict Native Americans. (Jesse Skoubo/Democrat-Herald)

LEBANON — Lebanon High School readied itself for a change five years ago when the state Board of Education drafted a recommendation to eliminate American Indian logos and mascots from public schools.

Nothing happened at the time. But with the topic set to come before the state board again at a meeting in Salem on Thursday, Lebanon is once again trying to mentally prepare for a change to its Warrior image.

“I think they’re pretty adamant that we make some changes,” Principal Bo Yates said Friday. “From my perspective, we try to exemplify some pride (with the mascot), but if it creates some hard feelings ...”

Public testimony is scheduled to be taken at the meeting starting at 9 a.m. Thursday and again at 8:30 a.m. Friday, said Shelby Campos, executive assistant to the superintendent of the Oregon Department of Education.

Che Butler, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz, raised the issue in December 2006. Then a high school senior, Butler asked the state board to prohibit the use of American Indian mascots, nicknames and logos as racist.

A state panel took up the issue in fall 2007 and heard strong opposition from schools to any changes. Some argued they had students with Indian backgrounds who said they would feel dishonored if their schools were to change names. Others pointed to the costs involved with switching logos.

Miranda Gestrin, a Lebanon senior in 2007, noted the Warrior mascot was chosen in 1957 and serves as a rallying point for the whole town.

“When we are cheering on the Lebanon Warriors, we are cheering on the students who have worked hard, and are trying to be as strong and brave as our idol, a Native American Indian chief,” she wrote in an article published in the Democrat-Herald that year. “We are not being disrespectful in this act.”

Lebanon uses several Warrior images. An Indian on horseback can be seen in metal sculptures in the main office and, most prominently, outside the wall of the Bud Page Activity Center. Visitors wear nametag stickers with a picture of a standing Indian carrying a spear.

A profile of a man wearing a feathered headdress is depicted on sweatshirts and flanking the signs above the gyms, the locker rooms and other gathering areas. The school has 35 such Warrior logos in the hallway from the small gym to the women’s locker room alone.

“I have not had any negative comments about our name or mascot in the 31 years that I have been here,” Athletic Director Rob Allen said.

Nor has Yvette Meyer, co-president of the high school’s booster club and a softball coach. Still, she said, “If we’re required to change our mascot, we’ll deal with it when we’re required to do so.”

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Education Reporter