The Natick School Committee Monday night voted to get rid of the Redmen nickname for its school sports teams.
The 7-0 decision signaled victory for those who believe the name is derogatory to Native Americans and led others who want to retain the status quo to pledge to force a November vote to rescind the measure.
The decision follows emotional public meetings, legal opinions that swung both ways and a nonbinding referendum in March in which 65 percent of 10,000 voters asked the School Committee to rethink an earlier decision to get rid of the nickname.
"This is a national issue, not just one for Natick and Massachusetts,'' said Pete Sanfacon, who heads up the New England Anti-Mascot Coalition, based in Framingham. "It's been going on in this country since the 1920s, and there have been protests at all levels since the late 1960s."
He said he was gratified at the school board's vote, which he believes is the right one: "We're making slow progress.''
Members of the group Redmen Forever began today to gather the signatures needed to place a question on the fall election ballot to overturn the decision. Co-chairman James Brown said Monday's decision was more than disappointing, given the popular vote in March, but not surprising.
"When you're objective you believe what you see,'' he said, of the school committee's vote. "When you're subjective, you see what you believe."
"For me, personally, the name Redmen is synonymous with Natick,'' Brown said. "If you're from Natick, you're a Redmen."
He said the name never has, nor is it intended, to be insulting to anyone: "It's an honorable and noble name."
School officials said, despite the controversy, the process was open and honest.
"All parties represented had the chance to respond,'' said Interim Schools Superintendent Joseph Keefe. "And the most important aspect of the entire process was the openness and the civility in which the committee dealt with the matter."
A task force this spring opted to return to the district's original nickname of Red and Blue and a contest involving school students to come up with a new logo - that has been in limbo because of the disagreement - will now resume, Keefe said.
--- Michele Morgan Bolton