Chants of “Keep the Raider” and “Save the Raider” rang out as about 100 Radnor High School students staged a peaceful protest Monday to support keeping the school’s traditional Raider nickname. Also, some 2,400 people signed an online petition posted by a student.
The school board opted in an 8-1 vote on Sept. 2 to remove the longstanding high school appellation and 9-0 to jettison any Native American imagery, arguing it is deemed offensive. A group of students had approached the school board and asked that the Native American depictions be removed, according to School Board President Susan Stern, who spoke to Delaware Valley Journal last week.
However, many alumni, residents, parents, and others want the name Raider to stay, noting that it was the Radnor High moniker from 1934 on, long before the Native American mascot was added in 1965 to honor football coach Chief Emerson Metoxen.
“It was great to see so many students supporting this issue,” said junior Ben Hart. “I feel like we proved to the school board that we can keep the name and separate the imagery. It shows that the students feel strongly about this issue. I hope the board reconsiders and allows it to be voted on by the students.”
Cackie Martin, a Radnor sophomore, said she is “so proud of so many of my classmates for participating today so that we can have our voices heard by the board tasked with representing us. We had a great showing of support at the Walk Out with 400 students and four media helicopters in the air… We are one Proud Radnor Raider Nation! Our ask (is) for Radnor Township School District School Board: Add “Raider” with new imagery to the community and student survey.”
“As a student at Radnor high school, and as a member of the Radnor community, I have been very involved with this rebranding process,” said Margot Johnson, a freshman. “It is very upsetting that the school board feels that they are entitled to remove the “Raider” name from the people of Radnor without any apparent understanding of its value. It angers me that they feel they have the right to take away the school nickname and subsequently tell me what my morals should be – without bothering to ask how anybody else felt. The administration and the RTSD School Board have not been transparent with such a significant issue, even though they have claimed to do so. The community has voiced their opinions, however, the school board and administration continue to refuse to listen.”
The school board recently formed a committee of community members to suggest new names as part of what’s being called a “rebranding” effort. Those names will be voted on by students and later, one name will be approved by the school board. The Raider name seems to be a favorite, with a survey showing 992 out of 1,315 in favor of Raider. But the board previously determined that Raider has been retired and is not among the possibilities.
Michael Pettiti, a spokesman for the district, said students asked for permission on Friday to demonstrate outside the school.
“The students were permitted to safely and respectfully express their views by walking around one of the school’s fields for 10-15 minutes beginning around 10 a.m.,” said Petitti. Radnor police estimated “approximately 80-100 students chose to participate in the demonstration. When the demonstration was over, the participating students peacefully returned to school.”
The Raider issue has drawn local media scrutiny and is part of a broader trend nationwide of schools, universities, and professional sports leagues removing Native American symbolism from their teams. Even the Jeep Cherokee has come under fire with a Cherokee chief asking Jeep to stop using that name.
However, as Nancy Monahan, the sole board member who voted to keep the Raider name, pointed out, the name Raider is not necessarily Native American and Colgate University successfully kept the Raider name while nixing native symbols.
“We are here today exercising our freedom of speech and to make sure that our voices are heard,” said Martin. “Our school board is supposed to represent us and we hope that they receive our message that we are — and will always be — proud Radnor Raiders.”