Private School in North Bethesda Bars Students, Staff From Wearing Redskins Gear

Private School in North Bethesda Bars Students, Staff From Wearing Redskins Gear

Head of school says the team logo, name disparage Native Americans

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This story was updated at 9:40 a.m. on Aug. 29 to clarify that the school staff might call a student's parents.

A private school in North Bethesda is banning apparel with the Washington Redskins team name or logo after concluding “we cannot continue to allow children or staff members—however well intentioned—to wear clothing that disparages a race of people.”

Green Acres School leadership last week sent families a message announcing the change, which emerged from classroom discussions about race- or ethnicity-based sports team logos.

In a phone interview Monday, Head of School Neal Brown said he wants to enforce the rule in a way that creates a respectful campus without making children feel guilty for cheering on the D.C. team.

“We want to approach this with children in a very age-appropriate and sensitive way. We’re in no way trying to vilify anyone for rooting for the local football team because, in truth, I root for the local football team,” said Brown, whose school instructs students from age 3 through eighth grade.

For example, school staff might ask older students to don a Green Acres T-shirt to cover clothing with the Redskins logo or the staff might call a younger student’s parents to reiterate the policy, he said.

Brown said he hasn’t heard pushback from parents since his Aug. 25 announcement, but recognized that the issue touches on the tension between inclusivity and individual expression.

“I think it’s only honest to acknowledge the times when the need to be respectful and thoughtful and sensitive overrides people’s ability to express themselves as they’d like,” he said.

Sidwell Friends School, a D.C. private school founded on Quaker principles, last year established a similar ban on wearing Redskins merchandise, according to The Washington Post. President Obama, whose daughters have attended Sidwell Friends, has asked Redskins owner Dan Snyder to reconsider the team name, the article stated.

Snyder has been adamant that he will never change the team’s name. He has said the name shows “honor, respect and pride” for Native Americans.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office revoked the team’s trademark in 2014 on the grounds that it was disparaging. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June in a separate but similar case, involving a band’s name, that a trademark ban on those grounds was unconstitutional.

The team could not be reached for comment about the new Green Acres rule late Monday afternoon.

While many argue the team name is disparaging to Indians, a Post poll conducted last year found that nine in 10 Native Americans were not offended by the moniker.

However, Brown said he’s heard otherwise from the Green Acres community.

The coeducational day school of about 320 students includes at least one family that identifies as Native American, and Brown said the Redskins team name and logo had caused them great distress. Their concerns helped spark staff discussions about the wearing the apparel.

Brown said sixth-graders and third-graders explored the issue further during last year’s celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Brown said the new rule deals only with the D.C. team for now and doesn’t extend to prohibiting clothing with other team names and logos some find objectionable. He hopes children will embrace the idea of inclusivity on their own.

“We’re a place that’s more about having kids do what’s right because they’ve internalized what’s right,” he said.

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