Tewksbury residents will voice opinions about Redmen mascot in town hall Wednesday

Tewksbury will debate its Redmen mascot in a town hall meeting Wednesday.
Tewksbury will debate its Redmen mascot in a town hall meeting Wednesday. –The Boston Globe

Hundreds of people will gather in the Tewksbury Memorial High School gym Wednesday evening, not to watch a game, but to debate the fate of the school’s logo — the Redmen.

In a poll posted on a Facebook page titled “Keep ‘Redmen’ as our logo of pride,’’ more than 330 people said they were in favor of keeping the mascot, which features an American Indian in a feathered headdress. Only 50 said they were in favor of changing the name.

But Superintendent John E. O’Connor said he’s received emails from both residents and non-residents across the nation on both sides of the issue.

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“There are many alumni, as well as those from other interest groups, who have suggested or expressed support to rebrand the high school,’’ he said.

O’Connor also said that Wednesday’s forum will be the first step in a process that’s expected at least through April.

“I plan to meet with high school students next month, and I will make an effort to meet with tribal representatives,’’ he said. “I’ve already engaged in a series of phone conversations with them, but I suggested that we meet in person.’’

After he’s able to make a thoughtful and thorough analysis, O’Connor said, he’ll bring his recommendation to the School Committee members, who will vote on a name change.

There are currently 40 high schools in Massachusetts that use Native American logos. This past spring, Watertown High School students were scheduled to vote to change their mascot from the “Red Raider.’’ But the vote was postponed indefinitely after what administrators called “an overwhelming response’’ from community members.

“We want a mascot behind which everyone can rally,’’ the school’s superintendent and principal said in a statement. “That is the purpose of a mascot.’’

In 2001, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for the end of Native American images and team names.

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In 2005, the American Psychological Association recommended all American Indian mascots be retired “immediately.’’ In the same year, the NCAA banned universities from displaying racially offensive mascots or images at any of its postseason tournaments.

Many schools have followed the NCAA’s ban and have changed their logos. Natick High School, who also used the Redmen mascot, changed to the “Redhawks’’ in 2012. This past spring, when Watertown was contemplating its own mascot change, Natick’s principal Rose Bertucci told Boston.com everyone had moved on past the controversy.

“We’re the Redhawks,’’ she said. “That’s it.’’

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