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Meeting about UHS mascot causes controversy online

01/18/2018 08:11AM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

A tiny notice about a meeting to be held at Unionville High School snowballed on social media this week, culminating with angry postings and the cancellation of the proposed meeting.

A Unionville High School student-created group calling itself the Identity Council got a meeting notice posted on a local newspaper's website, leading to a small story. The meeting was intended to address whether or not to eliminate the school's Indian mascot and logo.

Readers picked up on the announcement, and the angry messages, pro and con, started flying. By Wednesday afternoon, school district superintendent John Sanville issued the following message online and in emails to district families:

“I am writing to you about the growing social media frenzy concerning the Unionville High School Indian mascot,” he wrote. “It is important the entire community have a clear understanding of what has happened and how we will move forward.
“The UHS student-created and student-led Identity Council arranged for a meeting to facilitate a conversation about the UHS mascot. In part, group members wanted to discuss the cultural sensitivity of using the Indian. The Identity Council planned to meet on Wednesday evening to further their discussions.

“Then the posts started popping up on screens everywhere,” Sanville continued. “Some were curious; some were interested; some were angry. As the information spread, there were attacks on the students and the Identity Council. Misinformation was posted by The Kennett Paper and widely shared. Things rapidly devolved and it is important that we understand the importance of these events.
“Before we can examine the cultural sensitivity of the Indian mascot, we must first examine our own reactions to opening a discussion about it,” Sanville wrote. “I know we are a community filled with passion and pride. I also know we are a community that welcomes and supports opportunities to talk about things that impact us. I also know that a hot-button topic sometimes leads to emotionally charged and accusatory responses from adults, sometimes aimed at students. That is why the meeting was cancelled. There needs to be a cooling-off period online so we can ensure an in-person gathering will be positive and productive.

“So let’s all hit the pause button,” Sanville concluded. “Let’s allow the Indian to be the center of a dialogue where information and views are shared and responded to via respectful and meaningful conversation, in real time, with students, friends, and neighbors.”

For updated information about district events, visit www.ucfsd.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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