Mascot issue still sparks debate at Cambridge School Board meetings | Local

EVAN LAWRENCE Special for The Post-Star

CAMBRIDGE — Two members of the Cambridge School Board argued Thursday night during a presentation at last month’s meeting by Andre Billeaudeaux, executive director of the Native American Guardian’s Association.

At the August board meeting, Billeaudeaux posed as a social scientist and cited a study purporting to show that students at a Virginia school were harmed by efforts to remove the Native American mascot from school, compared to students at a similar school where there were no such efforts. Billeaudeaux said his “mentor” in championing the Indigenous-themed mascots was renowned social psychologist Phil Zimbardo, professor emeritus at Stanford University.

School board member Neil Gifford said his review of Billeaudeaux’s credentials did not support Billeaudeaux’s claims. He found no indication online that Billeaudeaux held advanced degrees, and Billeaudeaux had contributed to only one peer-reviewed paper, in 2004. When contacted, Gifford said, Zimbardo said denied being Billeaudeaux’s mentor and accused Billeaudeaux of “deliberately weaponizing psychology” to defend Native-themed mascots.

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Billeaudeaux claims 2% Aboriginal ancestry but is not a registered member of any recognized tribe. He was accompanied in August by two members of the Navajo Nation, who said they like the native mascots. Gifford contacted the National Congress of American Indians, which has opposed Native-themed mascots since 1968. In its response, the NCAI said it was the only group that officially represents all 573 recognized tribes. by the federal government and that the NAGA had no authority to represent Native Americans.

Gifford said he tried to read the study cited by Billeaudeaux, but the link on the NAGA website was broken and he couldn’t find it elsewhere.

“Presenting false credibility hurts our decision-making process,” Gifford said.

School board member Dillon Honyoust, who supports the Cambridge Indian’s retention, said it was ‘unfair’ to criticize Billeaudeaux when he was not present to defend himself. The study cited by Billeaudeaux has been used in two court cases to resist efforts to remove Indigenous mascots, Honyoust said.

NAGA members were in the area collecting oral histories and came to the board meeting to “share their opinions,” Honyoust said. “It’s unacceptable to stop people speaking because what they’re saying doesn’t align with your views,” he told Gifford.

Gifford said he defends everyone’s right to speak up but is opposed to the introduction of questionable information. The board has passed a resolution that would allow it to appeal the decision that the school should discontinue the Indian, but has yet to act on it, Gifford said.

“New information is always influencing us,” Gifford said.

Gifford’s comments about Billeaudeaux’s background were supported by resident Rachel Costello, who spoke during the public comment period. Costello also contacted Zimbardo. Zimbardo said it was “not acceptable to use mascots that make fun of racial and ethnic groups” and that there is no research showing that students are harmed by replacing these mascots.

“He totally misrepresents my position,” Zimbardo said.

Although Billeaudeaux was one of his undergraduate students, Zimbardo denied being his current mentor.

“I literally have no memory of him,” Zimbardo said.

Council chairman Shay Price said the council’s legal team submitted a review of the council’s legal options to retain the mascot earlier today. He would send it to the other board members on Friday.

  • Drama Club members Carol Boehlke and Adeline Record asked the board to wait a year before bringing the drama club back to Hubbard Hall, where it has met for several years. Students said they preferred Hubbard Hall’s theatrical spaces and appreciated the help they received from Hubbard Hall staff. Earlier in the meeting, the board approved extending his contract with Hubbard Hall for the 2022-23 school year.
  • School superintendent Douglas Silvernell said the school’s construction committee is considering upgrading or replacing the school’s auditorium as one of several capital projects on the wish list. from school. In its draft report, the committee said a new auditorium would cost $9 million to $10 million, all of which would go to district taxpayers. There was also the question of where a new auditorium would go on the school campus. The improvement of the existing auditorium could, however, benefit from state aid. Other priorities are creating rooms for vocational technical education, agriculture and shop classes, revamping classrooms and improving facilities for arts programs, Silvernell said. The replacement of sports fields with artificial turf was also mentioned. The building committee wants to hold a referendum on $8 million to $10 million capital projects in March to keep public building assistance in the district, Silvernell said. “Eight to 10 million won’t cover all of these things,” so the committee will have to choose which projects to present first and hold back the others for five to 10 years, he said.
  • The board created a position of director of student services/associate primary director for the 2022-23 school year and appointed Darlene King as interim. King, an experienced educator, will receive a daily salary of $550. Silvernell said that since the school year had already started, he did not want classroom teachers to compete for the position and King was available.


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