Mascot issue remains controversial in Cambridge school board meetings | Local

EVAN LAWRENCE Special for the Queen

CAMBRIDGE – Two members of the Cambridge school board debated Thursday night over a presentation at last month’s meeting by Andre Billeudeaux, chief executive officer of the Native American Defenders Association.

At the August board of directors meeting, Billeudeaux introduced himself as a social scientist and cited a study that purportedly showed that students at a Virginia school were harmed as a result of the effort. efforts to remove the school’s Native American mascot, compared with students at a similar school where there was no such effort. Billeudeaux says his “mentor” in defending indigenous-themed mascots is renowned social psychologist Phil Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University.

School board member Neil Gifford said a review of Billeudeaux’s information did not support Billeudeaux’s claims. He found no indication online that Billeudeaux had any advanced degrees and Billeudeaux only contributed to a peer-reviewed article published in 2004. When contacted, Gifford said, Zimbardo denied attempting to. Billeudeaux’s counsel and accused Billeudeaux of “deliberately weaponizing psychology” to defend himself. Indigenous themed mascots.

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Billeudeaux claims 2% to be of indigenous ancestry but not a registered member of any recognized tribe. In August, he was accompanied by two members of the Navajo Nation, who said they liked indigenous mascots. Gifford contacted the National Congress of American Indians, which has opposed indigenous-themed mascots since 1968. In its reply, the NCAI said it was the only group represented. official for all 573 federally recognized tribes, and the NAGA has no authority to represent Native Americans.

Gifford said he tried to read the study Billeudeaux cited, but the link on the NAGA website was broken and he couldn’t find it elsewhere.

“The misrepresentation of credibility hurts our decision-making process,” says Gifford.

School board member Dillon Honyoust, who advocates keeping the Cambridge Indians, said it was “unfair” to criticize Billeaudeaux when he was not there to defend himself. The research Billeudeaux cites has been used in two trials to combat efforts to remove indigenous mascots, Honyoust said.

NAGA members were in the area collecting oral histories and went to the board meeting to “share their opinions,” Honyoust said. “It’s unacceptable to stop people from speaking because what they’re saying doesn’t fit your point of view,” he told Gifford.

Gifford said he defends people’s right to speak but opposes giving out questionable information. The board passed a resolution allowing it to appeal the ruling that schools must drop Indians, but has yet to act, Gifford said.

“New information is still affecting us,” said Gifford.

Gifford’s comments on Billeudeaux’s background were supported by resident Rachel Costello, who spoke during public comment time. Costello has also contacted Zimbardo. The use of mascots that mock racial and ethnic groups, Zimbardo said, is “unacceptable,” and there are no studies that show students harmed by substituting such mascots.

“He completely misrepresented my point of view,” Zimbardo said.

Although Billeudeaux was one of his college students, Zimbardo denied being his current mentor.

“I really don’t remember him at all,” Zimbardo said.

Board Chairman Shay Price said the board’s legal team submitted a review of the board’s legal options to keep the mascot earlier that day. He will send it to other board members on Friday.

  • Drama Club members Carol Boehlke and Adeline Record asked the board to wait a year before bringing the drama club back from Hubbard Hall, where it had been meeting for several years. Students said they liked Hubbard Hall’s theater space and appreciated the help they received from Hubbard Hall staff. Earlier in the meeting, the board approved the contract extension with Hubbard Hall for the academic year 2022-2023.
  • School superintendent Douglas Silvernell said the school’s construction committee was considering improving or replacing the school’s lecture hall as one of several projects that were on the school’s wish list. In its draft report, the committee said a new auditorium would cost between $9 and $10 million, all of which would go to district taxpayers. There was also the question of where a new auditorium would go on campus. However, improving an existing auditorium would qualify for state aid. Other priorities are creating rooms for career-technical education, agriculture and shopping classes, redesigning classrooms and improving facilities for arts programs, Silvernell said. . The replacement of sports fields with artificial turf was also discussed. The building commission wants to hold a referendum on $8 million to $10 million in capital projects in March to continue state construction aid to the area, Silvernell said. “Eight to 10 million won’t cover all of that,” so the committee will have to choose which projects to present first and keep others for five to 10 years, he said.
  • The Board of Trustees has established a director of student services / elementary associate principal position for the 2022-23 school year and appointed Darlene King as interim. King, an experienced educator, will receive a stipend of $550. Silvernell said that as the school year has begun, he doesn’t want the teachers in his class to compete for the position, and King was present.

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