BELLINGHAM — Following the nationwide social justice movement that helped persuade the Washington Football Team to abandon an offensive mascot and other schools and teams at all levels to cast off insensitive names and logos, Bellingham High School is creating a task force to help change the school’s mascot from Red Raiders.
On Wednesday, the school sent an email asking for students, staff, families and community members to consider applying to be part of a task force to help change the mascot.
“We look forward to engaging more with our community in the coming months, including our Indigenous neighbors from local tribes, to listen to their feedback and thoughts,” Bellingham Public Schools spokesperson Dana Smith told The Bellingham Herald in an email. “The conversations began last spring and summer as students and others in the community became more aware, some for the first time, of the racialized history of the BHS mascot’s name.”
Once it is formed, the task force will determine a new mascot name for the school and possibly a related image, though the red-tailed hawk the school currently uses for its logo could be kept with a new mascot name, the message stated.
In addition, the task force will be asked to develop and deliver educational activities about systemic racism to the school’s students and community in an effort to promote a more inclusive environment.
The district has been contacted by community members and students about the possibility of changing the school mascot, Smith said. In response, school and district leaders have already begun working with student leaders to help facilitate a process to explore choices and ideas this school year, Smith said, adding that starting the task force is part of the process.
“Principal Dr. Linda Wise Miller says Bellingham High students are incredibly thoughtful and very focused on inclusion and social justice,” Smith wrote. “They are leading this exploration of what the mascot means, and administrators are following their lead.
“We expect it to be a learning journey for all.”
After several task force committee meetings and other meetings with community, student and school staff members, final recommendations will be made to Superintendent Greg Baker in May.
The new mascot and possible new image will be announced later in May, according to the website.
Bellingham High School’s mascot has been the Red Raiders since the school opened in 1938, according to The Bellingham Herald’s archives. For the first 61 years after the school opened, the Red Raider mascot was represented by a Native American warrior logo.
When the school was closed in 1998 for two years of renovations, the decision was made to also give the mascot a makeover when it reopened to students in fall of 2000. The hope was the change would align the mascot with district bylaws passed in 1996 that required school mascots “be respectful of different cultural values and attitudes, and will depict individuals and groups with fairness, dignity and respect.”
While Bellingham High was closed, student committees from Sehome and Squalicum high schools decided to keep the Red Raiders name, but the logo was replaced with a red-tailed hawk.