Controversial depictions of a high school mascot in one central Vermont community will be removed, a district administrator announced, following complaints the images conjured associations with the Ku Klux Klan.
“We’ve jokingly said Casper the Friendly Ghost would be better,” Randolph educator Nora Skolnick said of the way the Galloping Ghosts of Randolph are currently depicted.
Skolnick said for years now, she’s heard complaints the shrouded ghost riding a horse looks like a KKK member in a hood.
“The mascot mural still does resemble a klansman, with the long robes,” Sklonick told NECN and NBC10 Boston. “And made students uncomfortable and feel unsafe—so that had to change.”
This week, Superintendent Layne Millington of the Orange Southwest School District announced the gym wall showing the robed figure would be painted over, and clocks throughout the school showing the same image will be replaced.
Millington said he has seen mascot switches around the country become contentious, so he’s not holding any public meetings on the look of the Ghosts that could risk dividing Randolph.
Instead, Millington said he hopes cutting right to a decision will allow for meaningful conversations about racial justice, and make diverse members of the school community feel respected and welcome.
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“Each and every one of those students has stories that need to be told and need to be heard,” Millington said.
The administrator wants to be clear on one key point. The mascot itself won’t change, he said, explaining the Galloping Ghost will stay—only the illustration of the mascot will change.
Should a new image replace the one being removed, it’ll be a version from the school archives that shows a skeleton, Millington said.
“It’s not a man in a hood,” the superintendent pointed out.
Not everyone agreed the current version had to be replaced.
“It doesn’t bother me at all or anything,” said Peter Pratt, a Randolph Union alum from the class of 2000. “If they want to change it, I guess they’re going to change it, but they’re going to have a lot of people protesting.”
NECN and NBC10 Boston reached out to Curtiss Reed, Jr., the executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity, based in Brattleboro.
Reed returned a phone call after the video editing deadline for our initial report on the Randolph Union decision.
In the phone conversation, Reed applauded Millington for what he called “conspicuously courageous” leadership in recognizing the power symbols can have in schools, and gave him credit for rethinking the imagery.
Reed described the skeleton or grim reaper replacement as “quirky” and perhaps an unusual choice, but acknowledged it is not evocative of the KKK or overtly racist.
Outside the gym of Randolph Union High School, a framed story explains the 1940 boys’ basketball team was said to move as ghosts would, darting down the court so quickly, their white uniforms were a blur.
Then and there, a school mascot was born, the document explains.
Millington and Skolnick each said they hope to see squabbles over the way the character is drawn put aside, so the district can focus on what matters: producing better outcomes for all students.
“I think we’re doing that work,” Skolnick said.