Bill would allow state to compel schools to ‘do the right thing’ with mascots, Sen. Bray says

The Vermont Senate Education Committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would restrict the types of mascots and names to be used for Vermont school sports teams, even if the community voted for the mascot.

The aim of S.139, as originally introduced, is “to prohibit a public school from having or adopting a name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to a racial or ethnic group, individual, custom, or tradition and that is used as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name of the school.”

Earlier on Thursday, the committee heard from a handful of education policy leaders, including Jay Nichols, the executive director for the Vermont Principals’ Association. Nichols has concerns about what happens when the local communities and the state disagree.

Rebel Alliance Facebook photo

MASCOT CONTROVERSIES: Years ago the South Burlington School Board voted to get rid of its ‘Rebels’ school mascot because it was deemed offensive to some.

“One question that we have is what happens if the school district refuses to comply, as the law is silent on that,” he said.

Committee Chair Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, said he expects that school communities will comply without conflict.

“We’re going to trust administration and school board members and others to do the right thing,” he said. “And I think this, like everything else, we’ll see how it goes. You know, there’s no reason not to trust folks to do the right thing.”

Jeffrey Francis, the executive director of the Vermont Superintendents Association, also posed a question.

“What happens?” he said. “Because if the administration moves to implement the policy, it’s got budgetary considerations, it’s got political considerations, and it’s got considerations in terms of the relationship that the administration enjoys with the boards.”

Legislative counsel Elizabeth James answered his question.

“This would be a law that they are required to follow,” she said. “… There is an assumption under law that they [the school board] are following that policy. What happens, how the AOE [Agency of Education] interacts with the school district or tension in the relationships within the community over the fact that they are required to follow the model policy, I can’t speak to that.”

Sue Ceglowski, the executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association, suggested that her organization might provide the guidelines that school communities will be required to follow.

“We’re happy to provide input to the Agency of Education on the development of a model non-discrimination school branding policy,” she said. “… This model would be put into the required section because of the language in the bill that requires districts to have it.”

Ceglowski suggested that the bill should clearly imply that these schools must buy new uniforms, redo the gym floors, and more.

Bray said that according to his interpretation, “that would mean changing the mascot wherever it might exist.”

James reiterated that point, saying, “You would have to get rid of anything with the school brand on it that’s not compliant with the law.”

The bill explains the enforcement mechanism to be used against Vermont communities: “Any public school not in compliance three years after passage of this act shall be ineligible to compete in Vermont Principals’ Association-sanctioned events.”

Emily Simmons, the general counsel for the AOE, said that someone could make a complaint to the state about another town’s mascot, and that would still require that town’s board to spend its time on an assessment of their mascot.

“Assume someone in that community or someone outside that community feels that the branding is in violation of the policy, they [may] bring a complaint which the board would be required by law to act upon,” Simmons said.

Earlier this year, the Rutland City School Board voted to return its mascot to “the Raiders” after it was briefly changed to the “Ravens” during a school mascot controversy.  Were S.139 to become law, this would allow the state to penalize the Rutland School Board for its decision to return to its original mascot.

The committed approved an amended version of the bill 5-1 on Thursday, with Sen. Joshua Terenzini, R-Rutland, as the only no vote.

If passed into law, The Agency of Education will adopt a model policy as required by the act by Aug. 1, 2022.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

12 thoughts on “Bill would allow state to compel schools to ‘do the right thing’ with mascots, Sen. Bray says

  1. what we ought to have is a bill requiring a study of people who find every word they don’t like to be offensive and what is wrong with them. Then they can write a bill deciding what to do with abnormal people. Smile.

  2. The under lying proposition here, as with much we see coming from our legislative community, is that the STATE CAN COMPEL US to do…whatever?…whether we have a consensus on it or not. There seems to be little restraint on this. Do we agree with this vision of government? Isn’t this what we’ve sighted as “over-reach”?.

  3. According to liberal busybody Sen. Bray, “doing the right thing” is leaving decisions about local matters to an un-elected State board with no accountability, and the ability to inflict fiscal and political sanctions. Committee Chair Sen. Christopher Bray, D-Addison, said he “expects that school communities will comply without conflict”…sounds a bit like a threat…like something out of Germany in 1933, but with a bowtie instead of a swastika decorating his shirt.
    Virtue signaling among both private citizens and politicians has reached the level of a competitive sport in Vermont. I nominate Sen. Bray for a political correctness trophy but we know how these leftists hate competition and recognition of merit, so I guess a trophy will have to be given out to everyone in his Party that votes for this proposal.

  4. The leftists whine about imaginary threats to democracy unless it’s some heavy handed edict they hold dear. Unelected petty tyrants.

    If this passes, a school affected should change their name that on the surface seems to comply but is really a stealth foundation for insults. Like “Woodpeckers” — “Peckers” for short. “Hey Wildcats, you just got beat by a fist full of Peckers.” “Support your Peckers.” Their mascot would be a likeness of that famous woodpecker, Woody.

  5. Look what happened to the Washington Redskins football team. They dropped the logo and changed the team’s name to The Washington Generals??? In honor of General Silly Milley Vanillie, (I assume). The correct solution would have been to keep the logo and to change the team’s name to The Washington Featherheads!

  6. Why don’t we just drop sports from education platforms and do away with the need to “not offend
    the whiners”… would seem to be a simple solution to a government overstated problem.. What’s
    wrong with the voters who elect these imbeciles anyway?? The schools are down to uninspiring
    birds and fishies now so why even have one??? I remember when one family in our district got the
    crusaders struck down which started this whole ball to get rolling. That was a long time ago..and
    not even sure the family still lives here now.

    • The proposal to eliminate school sports would solve the “offensive” mascot problem, the sticky issue of boys declaring a change of gender to compete against girls and the “agony of defeat” affecting the delicate self esteems of some participants…everybody wins when no one gets a trophy!
      By the way, I was a Crusader. Once a Crusader, always a Crusader.

  7. The very last people I would want to decide “…what the right thing to do…” would be, are Rep. Bray and the State Agency of Education. Bill S.139 is nothing more than a litany of charges, penalties, and costs for actions by local School Boards that the liberal / progressive members of the State Education Committee and the Vermont School Board Association might deem inappropriate. “Big Brother” incarnate. What Vermonters don’t need is yet another non-elected group of self righteous dweebs telling us how to act, what to do, and what to think. Here’s hoping that voters remember their legislators’ transgressions in November and act accordingly…

    • We’ve actually created a legislative culture that endorses their impulse to RULE US when thought we wanted them to REPRESENT US.. Our voting criteria needs to include the question…”will you check with us first…”? If we haven’t given you a consensus…don’t make the law/regulation…vote against intrusive overreach.

  8. Let’s take Rutland for example. The nickname is “raiders”. Who will determine that “raiders” is offensive? On what basis? If the school system refuses to pay over $100,000 to change everything and instead appeals the decision, does it go to court? And finally, if the penalty is prohibition of participation in Vermont Principals’ Association-sanctioned events, what is to prevent a group of intransigent, offensive schools from forming their own leagues and associations? We spend more per student than every other state and get unimpressive results based upon the achievement of our students. This is the height of madness.

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