Respect Equality

Vermont senate advances bill banning discriminatory public-school mascots

The Vermont State House in Montpelier, Vermont.  Istock

Story at a glance

  • The legislation, S.139, will move to the state House and require the Vermont Agency of Education to develop a nondiscriminatory policy by Aug.
  • School boards will be required to adopt a similar policy by Jan. 1, 2023.
  • Professional sports teams in recent years have reckoned with their mascots’ own racially charged histories.

The Vermont Senate approved a bill on Friday that would prohibit public schools from having discriminatory mascots and nicknames.  

“Vermont schools provide positive and inclusion learning environments for all students by eliminating the use of discriminatory school mascots,” Sen. Brian Campion (D), chair of Senate Committee on Education, said on Thursday. 

“Research shows that such mascots undermine the educational experiences of all members of our communities and perpetuates unfavorable stereotypes,” he continued. “Additionally removing such mascots is a step toward our state’s continuing work in breaking down institutional racism and a step forward in creating a culture where all students today and those in the future feel safe and welcome.” 

The legislation, S.139, will move to the state House and require the Vermont Agency of Education to develop a nondiscriminatory policy by Aug. 1. School boards will be required to adopt a similar policy by Jan. 1, 2023.  

Campion added that the policy will “prohibit school branding that directly or indirectly references or stereotypes the likeness, features, symbols, traditions or other characteristics that are specific to the race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity of any person or group or persons or organizations associated with the repression of others.”


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Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale (D), who also supported the bill, described how the widespread mascot issues effect schools and communities on multiple levels.  

“We have had school districts that have changed a mascot, changed it back, spent money on elections, materials, scoreboards, things that are related to their athletic events,” Ram Hinsdale said. “That has … caused heartache and pain for many, but it has also affected the bottom line of our schools and school districts.”   

Yet, some lawmakers, including Sen. Joshua Terenzini (R), opposed the legislation, saying the mascot matter represented a community-level issue while adding he did not support mascots depicting insensitive imagery.  

“I want to make it clear that I do not support any school mascot, logo, or depiction that would be insensitive to any group in our communities,” he said. 

Professional sports teams in recent years have reckoned with their mascots’ own racially charged histories. The Cleveland’s Major League Baseball Team at the end of last season changed its name from Indians to Guardians. Meanwhile, in the National Football League, the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins adopted the moniker Commanders for the upcoming season after spending a season operating under the name The Washington Football Team.


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