School committee candidates talk Indians logo, diversity in Dartmouth schools

Mar 22, 2024

With the April 2 election just around the corner, Dartmouth Week partnered with Dartmouth Community Television to host another candidates night on Thursday, March 21 at Town Hall.

Diversity and cultural sensitivity in Dartmouth Public Schools were among the many topics discussed that evening.

School Committee candidates Kyle Ross and Mary Beckwith shared their thoughts on keeping the controversial Dartmouth High School Indians logo in light of a proposed bill that would ban schools from using logos deemed culturally offensive according to the bill’s language.

If it passed the Massachusetts State Legislature, the proposed bill would ban public school sports teams from using any logo or mascot that references Native American cultures and tribes or that “denigrates any racial, ethnic, gender, or religious group.” 

This would force the Dartmouth School District to do away with its current Indians logo, overruling the majority of Dartmouth voters who voted in favor of keeping the Indians logo in the April 2022 election. Dartmouth High School is one of over 20 schools across the state that would be in violation of the bill.

Both Ross and Beckwith agreed that they would comply with the legislation if the bill were to pass. However, their opinions of the logo itself differed. 

Ross said he respects the voters’ recommendation in 2022 to keep the Dartmouth Indians logo and said that he believes the logo is being used respectfully in a way that honors Dartmouth’s Native American history. 

Wampanoag tribe member Clyde Andrews designed the current Indians logo to pay homage to Dartmouth’s Native American heritage.

“I think that good safeguards were put in place to ensure the logo is used respectfully, thoughtfully and in an honorable way to Native Americans,” Ross said. “I have been to many football games, many basketball games … I’ve never seen a student disrespect the logo.”

Beckwith said she is not in favor of any racial or ethnic group being used as mascots. 

“I believe you can come up with something else other than to use a religious symbol or a racial or ethnic symbol,” Beckwith said.

Beckwith and Ross also shared their thoughts on what actions they might take to encourage diversity in education. Beckwith works in UMass Dartmouth’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion where she investigates cases involving discrimination and sexual misconduct. 

“I believe that [diversity, equity and inclusion] should be infused throughout a curriculum,” Beckwith said. “It should not be a separate topic. And so I think curriculum should be reviewed to ensure that the experiences, the viewpoints of a broad range of people are included throughout the curriculum.”

Ross said that overall, Dartmouth Public Schools does “a great job” of promoting diversity and equity. Ross’ 11-year-old son, who attends Quinn Elementary School, was born with down syndrome. Ross said that the Dartmouth school system makes his son feel welcomed and included. 

“I think Dartmouth really does do a great job at welcoming all those kids under one umbrella,” Ross said.

The event, which featured candidates running for open seats on the Board of Assessors, Board of Library Trustees, School Committee and Select Board, can be viewed in full at Dartmouth Community Media’s YouTube page.