A Maryland school has banned students and staff from wearing Washington Redskins apparel after a Native American family objected to the attire.
"The response we've gotten so far has been very positive and understanding, even among kids and staff members who are diehard fans," Neal M. Brown, head of Green Acres School in Bethesda, Maryland, told Delaware Online.
The private elementary-middle school, which is in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., sent families a notice explaining that "the term 'Redskin' is a racial slur" that "can be deeply insulting and offensive" whether it is meant that way or not.
"['Redskins'] demeans a group of people," explains the letter, signed by Brown. "Similarly, the team's logo also can reasonably be viewed as racially demeaning. At best, the image is an ethnic stereotype that promotes cultural misunderstanding; at worst, it is intensely derogatory."
Though the term was coined by a Native American chief in the late 1700s, over the years it has been used in more derogatory manners, according to The Washington Post. Native American chiefs and activists have protested the football team's identity; however, Redskins owners have made no indication that they plan on changing it, and a 2016 poll determined that 90 percent of Native Americans are not offended by the term.
Controversy surrounding the team's name came to Green Acres' attention when third-graders brought it up while studying Native American history during the fall of 2016, notes Delaware Online. Around the same time, a Native American student's family took issue with Redskins-themed clothing.
The school, which has been running since 1934 and was the first in its county to be integrated, has always worked to uphold its "rich history of diversity and inclusion and respect," explained Brown, who is a fan of the Washington NFL team.
"The kids are supposed to wear clothing that is respectful and also not in any way offensive," said the school leader.
Though they are still working out some of the finer details, Brown said that faculty members have been instructed to treat each student who violates the new dress code clause differently.
"We will handle it in an age-appropriate, sensible and sensitive way," said the school's head. "I certainly don't want kids to feel they can't support their team or there's anything wrong with that."
In other words, older students clad in the NFL team's jerseys could have to change into a school shirt for the rest of the day, while youngsters' parents might simply receive a phone call home reminding them not to violate the policy going forward.
"We certainly don't want to vilify anyone who comes to school in violation of this," said Brown. "Ultimately, most kids won't wear that kind of clothing because they understand why it is upsetting to some people."
Brown said that the policy only applies to the Redskins for the moment but that they are open to expanding it to include other sports teams with Native American names and mascots.