Opinion: Recent School Board Meeting Addresses Logo, Loses Focus

The Native American Guardian Association gives a presentation on the logo. Screenshot of “School Board Meeting- 1/18/24” by SYCSDWarriorTV via YouTube
The Native American Guardian Association gives a presentation on the logo. Screenshot of “School Board Meeting- 1/18/24” by SYCSDWarriorTV via YouTube

For seven hours, people deliberated within the walls of the Southern Middle School on Jan. 18 with shoulders slumped over their computers and hoards of parents, students, and concerned community members sharing their voices.

For seven hours, differing opinions took flight and two decisive stances stood at a head.

For seven hours, adults in control of managing the Southern York County school district contemplated and brooded over the formidable judgment sitting before them.

What was it in question that caused so much consternation and brooding?

The question of student safety or urgent community action that needed to take place?

The question of education or academic emergencies?

No, in fact, the decision that pulled apart so many people was not a question of student safety, nor a decision that would affect the education of the students within the schools’ walls.

The division was over a logo.

A logo, yes, a simple picture.

Overall, the Warrior family transcends its logo and represents the sentiment that no matter a student’s ideals and political assertions, a compromise can be made and a consensus can be reached. The Warrior family is vivacious because of its resilience, but also because of its respect and consideration. We do not need to hold onto an insensitive logo or drag out a ridiculous debate to help us do that.

Three years ago, amidst a pandemic that brought chaos and confusion to many people, the determination was made to retire the old logo of SYCSD, a Native American head, at the behest of a student letter.

This is the Native American head logo that was retired during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Courtesy of  www.sycsd.org

On one side, people found the head to be insensitive, calling upon the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and American Psychological Society, which has now twice called for an end to using Native American mascots in non-Native schools. Some believed that the logo was driving stereotypes and plummeting the reputation of the schools.

Others regarded the Native American head to be entirely permissible. They reasoned that there was no harm in representing the region’s historical culture and that the notion of changing the logo was preposterous.

Whether people agreed with it or not, a final judgment was made to update and modernize the logo, replacing it with student designs. The designs maintained some features of the old Warrior logo, with an arrow behind the S and later on a design featuring the old school house. While they received some pushback at the moment, it appeared that slowly and gradually most people could agree that the logo was no longer a centerpiece of debate. In fact, with the construction of the new school, many had come to embrace the emblem that adorned the floor of the new gym.

The overhaul of the old logo was not something that came effortlessly, but it undoubtedly came at the right time. If there was ever going to be a moment to update the logo, based on whatever controversy it carried, it was then. The construction came with an unexplored era, the old logo was painted over, and the exhaustive changes in the school included more transformations than just the design of the head. Rather than leaving the decision to the future, changes were implemented in the new building, saving later expenses over a parallel dilemma.

For a while, all seemed well, the school was updated with the arrow logo, and the controversy had sizzled down.

Then, in December of 2023, new school board members were voted in, a group of candidates that made it apparent their lean toward the old logo as they campaigned with the head as their mascot.

During this seven-hour school board meeting, two hours of public comment took place, along with a lengthy presentation. During the public comment session, many members of the public shared their opinions and a presentation was given by the Native American Guardians Association where they claimed that the Warrior head logo was actually respecting the Native Americans and protecting a minority.

During a Courier interview, board member Joe Wilson claimed that the NAGA’s goal represented the will of the community and respected the past.

The Native American Guardian Association gives a presentation on the logo. Screenshot of “School Board Meeting- 1/18/24” by SYCSDWarriorTV via YouTube

“We had an academic logo, music logo, and sports team logos,” Wilson said. “None of which really convey a unified sense of who we are, given the “Susquehannock” high school name, or the Native American history of our region.”

On the other hand, a member of the community, Katy Ishenock, a Native American alum shared her apprehensions about the logo and her belief that the logo was not respecting her past.

“You have no idea what you are sharing, and you have no idea what you are doing when it comes to our culture,” Ishenock said. “It is offensive and ignorant.. .you are not native and you do not know the culture.”

To act as though reinstating the old logo is a method of preserving Native American history while ignoring firsthand pleas from Native members of the community to get rid of it is not a demonstration of the respect and standards that SYCSD holds to such high value.

“The logo is identity theft of the Susquehannock, and you do not have their permission to use their symbols of their culture and religion,” Isennock said. “You cannot consult with them because they are gone. Because of your ancestors who brought disease and colonization that brought death and misery. Why would they want you representing them?”

Calls from the community continue to ring out vigorously, with people like Ishenock guiding the charge.

Beyond just the issue of the logo, a more extensive crisis stands out; the essence of the debate. Whatever the opinion is on the logo, it is a case that was resolved three years ago and made no inherent shift in the betterment or worsening of the student way of life. It was a consensus that may have saved the Southern York County School District from controversy in the future and settled the minds of students within the school.

Sue Meyers of New Freedom talked to the board about how the entire ordeal was a distraction for students.

“I do think this is a distraction,” Meyers said. “To bring this up…it seems out of touch …there’s so many other things we need to be focusing on. Teacher shortage. AI. School safety. Big issues.”

As of now, the decision to put back the old logo is frustrating, not just because of the money the school now has to needlessly spend to put it back, whether that be private donations or not, but the idea that in the future the school will likely end up with a different logo once more.

This is one of the student-designed logos put in place after the original retirement of the logo. Image Courtesy of Wade Bowers via shscourier.com

Other concerned parents and adults within the community share their frustration as well.

Dr. Rachael Zeleny, who dropped out of the school board race, also spoke to highlight the students’ opinions and her frustrations.

“The kids are telling us this is the direction they want to go … and to have adults be so dismissive to say they don’t have a right because they want to keep wearing the sweatshirts they have been wearing,” Zeleny said.

The worsening and more concerning issue may be the future of discussions on the fate of the school. Commencing with a seven-hour-long meeting to drag the Southern York county back into debate seems to be an omen many are apprehensive over. Maybe it brings them back to COVID days when school board meetings were filled with upset parents and never-ending drama.

The need to undo what previous boards have done exhibits an inherent inability to think ahead for the future and focus on new subjects to protect the students.

With so many unique and exhilarating events happening in the buildings and community, Southern York County School District has more topics to concentrate on than a decision from three years ago. Some determinations and topics can and should come before the past. The goal of the school should be to aim high for the future and to make changes that launch us further. The actions of a school board should be to propel us onward, not drag us back.

“That’s not why you are here,” one parent remarked. “That is not the job of a school board. Your job is to produce students, keep teachers, keep administrators, keep intelligence and thoughtful processes amongst yourself so that you can continue to provide students with what they deserve. It’s not this kind of nonsense.”

The decision to bring back the logo simply feels like a kick in the gut to students looking forward to blazing ahead. To some, it feels like a laughing matter because of how not serious the topic is. To most, it makes them incensed that they seem to be stuck in the same place they were three years ago, dragged back into a hole of debate and hostility.

Where we have seen levels of understanding and strides toward compromise, it is now apparent that that is no longer the goal.

The goal is not to foster a community where two sides can communicate and move forward; the goal is no longer to push students to work together to create a family of understanding. The goal is no longer to make a decision based on what would better the student’s way of life, but instead to foster a place where every time a new school board is elected SYCSD will take several steps back and swing from one side to the other. SYCSD cannot afford to be a pendulum of political opinions; SYCSD needs to remain focused on their goal of improvement.

In the end, the Southern York County school district is not a debate forum, or a table to slide agendas across, it is not a political warzone- it is a community. For a lot of students, it is a second home, where they can feel support from their teachers, get inspiration and aim for their lives, and grow closer to their friends.

In school, students are taught the Warrior expectations:
To be safe.
-Not to sacrifice the safety of Native American students for a political statement.
To be respectful.
-Not to disrespect both an entire culture and a community hellbent on moving forward.
To be responsible.
-Not to irresponsibly throw the school district back into debate.
To be resilient.
-Not to drag a school district back and push a future problem forward.
To be the Warrior.
-Not to fight with each other, but to fight FOR each other.

Leaders need to remember how to live up to these expectations for the betterment of us all.

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  • A

    AmieFeb 8, 2024 at 11:15 am

    Well written, wise beyond your years!

  • P

    Peggy KoppFeb 6, 2024 at 4:09 pm

    Excellent article!

  • P

    PatFeb 6, 2024 at 11:52 am

    Well written article. Thank you for your coverage of an important topic.

  • M

    Michelle ChopperFeb 6, 2024 at 9:29 am

    Thoughtful and mature. I admire your ability to continue demonstrating the Warrior expectations despite the distractions from the “adults”.

  • D

    Deborah KalinaFeb 6, 2024 at 8:34 am

    Bravo. Beautifully written. Spot on! Don’t stop following, reporting and commenting on, and energizing the student body to be involved in the body politic. Your futures depend on it.

  • D

    D C DUCLOSFeb 5, 2024 at 3:37 pm

    Articulate and insightful article. It would seem that the student body is more mature than the schoolboard. Listen to the future, people.