Lawsuit Challenging Mascot Names Dismissed

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A lawsuit over the names of two Connecticut prep sports teams has been dismissed. 

The lawsuit challenged the changing of West Hartford sports teams' names, WTIC-TV reported

The board had previously voted in favor of changing the names, meaning the teams no longer would go by The Chieftains and The Warriors. Attorney Scott Zweig, on behalf of himself and another town resident, filed the lawsuit a day before the Board of Education's vote on the changing of the names, citing procedural issues. 

The lawsuit filed by Zweig was dismissed Monday by the superior court. 

The debate has been the talk of the town for years, WTIC-TV reported. So much so, back in 2015, the school board voted to change the logos for Conard and Hall High Schools, removing the Native American symbols. At that time, they kept the name. 

The motion was brought to the table in December 2021 because of a new Connecticut law that went into effect in 2022. The law, known as PUBLIC ACT 21-2, stated that municipalities with offensive mascots will no longer get money from the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund. Schools had to let the tribes know by March 2022 if they plan to change their name.

West Hartford gets about $28,000 from that fund each year.

It is a matter that has offended many people over the years. Chair of the board Dr. Lorna Thomas-Farquharson said the board had received written input from both local and national Native American tribes, who have essentially expressed disapproval of the usage of the school names.

"The purpose for us looking into this was more than a monetary gain or loss. It really was based on the principle of the topic and the principal of the matter," said Thomas-Farquharson.

In a statement following the court's decision, West Hartford Corporation Counsel Dallas C. Dodge said: 

“I can certainly respect differences of opinion on education policy, but litigation is not the answer to what is fundamentally a political disagreement. The decision of the Superior Court confirms that Attorney Zweig failed to establish even the most basic elements of standing, and we are hopeful that he will finally abandon his baseless legal claims as well as his ridiculous demand that the town pay for the costs of his own lawsuit.”

Also in a statement, Thompson-Farquharson said that the issue had been the subject of an exhaustive and oftentimes divisive debate. 

“The Board’s decision to discontinue Native American team names is consistent with our goal of creating an equitable and inclusive learning environment for all students," she said. 

In June, the board voted on the new names for the high schools' mascots. Hall’s new mascot became the Titans and Conard, the Red Wolves.

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