Brattleboro Union High School grad wants school to change its nickname

Brattleboro Union High School faces Burr & Burton in a boys ice hockey game at the Nelson Withington rink.

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BRATTLEBORO — The Heifers? The Hermit Thrushes?

Those were a couple of suggestions for a new Brattleboro Union High School nickname from Freesia Capy-Goldfarb, who recently started a petition for the change.

"I think that choice should be made through a diplomatic process by the students that are still at BUHS, who I'm sure are rich with ideas on how they would like to represent themselves. To me, the most important thing is making sure it's a mascot that every student can be proud of. I know that this can't be said about the Colonel name," said Capy-Goldfarb, who is a 2017 Brattleboro Union High School graduate.

The school's sports teams were referred to as the Organ Grinders, Bratts and Purples up until 1949. In 1950, the student body voted 330-160 in favor of the Colonels over the Purple Panthers as the official moniker.

"I always thought the name was a little problematic, but I honestly didn't understand the history of the name until recently. Because of the anti-racism movement that is sweeping the globe, I've been evaluating ways that I can make a difference close to home," Capy-Goldfarb said. "All over the country, vestiges that celebrate America's racist history are being torn down and replaced. We have to do the same at home."

According to a Change.org petition by Capy-Goldfarb, the first Brattleboro Union High School Colonel mascot was modeled after Colonel Reb, a Southern plantation owner and slave owner who was also the mascot for the University of Mississippi. Brattleboro Union High School got rid of its Ole Miss Rebels-like mascot in 2004, but kept the nickname.

"To me, it seems like an obvious and frankly easy step towards making the school a safe place for the diversity of students who go there, rather than only the white students," Capy-Goldfarb said.

It's also been suggested that the nickname comes from Colonel William Brattle — the man Brattleboro was named after.

"I was a teacher here when they did away with the mascot," Principal Steve Perrin said. "My job now is to make sure that people in the community get to weigh in on (the nickname issue). I want to get input from the students and community. I'm going into this with an open mind."

Washington's NFL team recently retired its nickname and logo, with "Redskins" having been considered an ethnic slur by Native American groups.

The school is currently in an evaluation process. There will be three meetings held to discuss a potential nickname change — one with current students, parents and staff members; one with alumni and an open community forum — and then Perrin will likely approach the School Board with the issue.

The principal is hoping this is resolved by the beginning of the school year. He explained that if the nickname is changed, "Colonels" will have to be removed from such things as the scoreboard and team uniforms.

"It's not a quick fix," Perrin said.

The petition to change the Brattleboro Union High School nickname can be found online at change.org/removebrattleborocolonel.

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