Bellefonte back to “Red Raiders”

Pauline Alterio, Photographer

Eighteen months after the issue was first raised, the Bellefonte Area School District’s School Board is back to work on its controversial imagery. 

In a special January 4 work session, board members voted to rescind last April’s motions that eliminated district-wide Native American imagery and the nickname “Red Raiders.” Along the motion’s 6-2 voting margin, Jeff Steiner, Andrea Royer, Kimberly Weaver, John Guizar, Marie Perini, and Jack Bechdel voted “Yes” to rescind, while Julie Fitzgerald and Donna Smith both voted “No.”

            The decision came just two months after the board elections of Bechdel, Royer, Guizar, and Steiner (the latter two were re-elected). The four ran a joint campaign on the “Red Raider” debate, promising to overturn the April motions and return the moniker to its district home. 

            In the January 4 meeting, Steiner capitalized on this.

            “We allowed ourselves to get sucked into a cultural war,” he said. “Now it is time to turn our focus to where it should be— the needs of students.”

              Smith, however, questioned the board’s need to rescind the past motions.

              “What would be the argument for rescinding it?” she asked.

              Royer was among the first to respond, highlighting overall community unhappiness with the April decisions.

    “I hear from the public that they want it to go back to the way it was,” she said. “[With the rescind motion] we’ll have some time now, instead of force-feeding it to a community that isn’t necessarily on board.”

    Bechdel agreed, claiming the imagery process had been destructive.

    “This whole thing has been about people tearing down parts of our society … they’re trying to connect dots and the dots aren’t there,” he said. 

The “dots” were in reference to racial insensitivity, which had been the initial grounds for several petitions requesting retirement of the “Red Raider.” It was later brought up against the logo by several community members, including all five attending Native Americans, at a public commentary meeting in April.

             Still, the board’s decision will likely save the Bellefonte district more than $100,000, which was the original financial estimate for the replacement of gym floors, signage, wrestling mats, and paint with a new logo.

              Before the meeting’s closure, though, Steiner asked community members, both those who agreed with the use of the “Red Raider” and those who disagreed, to remember the importance of respect and compassion.

               “We hope that everyone can find grace in their hearts, particularly during these contentious times,” he said. “Try to be open to the idea that this is not what you want to think it is.”