The School Board on Tuesday made changing the mascot at Loudoun County High School a priority, as part of a 16-point plan proposed by Superintendent Eric Williams to combat systemic racism within the school division.
Loudoun County’s Raiders mascot moved into the spotlight after School Board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) asked administrators whether any of the division’s schools had names associated with the Confederacy. That question was prompted by efforts of other Northern Virginia jurisdictions to change the names of schools that honor Confederate leaders.
So far, Williams said, Loudoun County High School’s homage to Col. John Singleton Mosby’s cavalry unit was the only Confederate link found. However, a school-by-school review is continuing, he said. Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling) noted that the Sully Elementary School could be subject to a name change because it shares a name with a former plantation nearby.
Serotkin’s initiative came as two Loudoun County High School alumslaunched a petition drive to change the mascot.
That petition may no longer be necessary. The School Board is expected to vote Monday to direct the mascot’s removal and to initiate a process to select a new one. That process will likely involve a group of students, administrators and community members.
Beth Barts (Leesburg) said that if the change is to be made it should happen quickly so it can be in place before the start of the next school year. She also said the school should be allotted the extra money that will be needed to erase the raider iconography from the campus and provide new uniforms and equipment depicting the new selected logo. It could be a million-dollar expense, she said, one that should not be borne by the school.
Eliminating the Raider mascot wasamong 16 initiatives Williams laid out Tuesdayin a list of “proposed action plans to combat systemic racism.” They range from having the School Board review and approve a comprehensive equity plan that is being finalized by the Equity Committee to issuing a formal apology for the division’s history of operating segregated school.
The board wasprovided more detailson one of the anti-racism efforts—to increase the diversity of the applicant pool and admitted students at the Academies of Loudoun. Complaints that the low number of Black students selected for the courses represented a denial of equal opportunity prompted a Virginia Attorney General’s Office review last fall.
Williams said even before that action, the division had hired an attorney nationally known for working on segregation and discrimination issues to help improve the applicant review process. For the 2020-21 school year, the percentage of Black students applying to participate in the Academy of Science and the Academy of Engineering and Technology was proportional to the percentage of Black students overall in the school system. However, fewer than 10 Black students were selected for admission to either program.
Williams said the admission results also showed that economically disadvantaged students made up a disproportionally low percentage of the academies enrollment.
He said administrators are looking at changing entrance requirements and testing, and may consider a lottery approach that could be weighted with the goal of ensuring a proportionate number of economically disadvantaged students are admitted to the academies.
The admission figures show that Asian students, who make up 23 percent of Loudoun’s enrollment, represent the largest portion of the Academies applicant pool—at least 50 percent. At the Academy of Science next year, 103 students will be Asian, 19 will be white and the number of Black students will be under 10. No Hispanic students were admitted among the 51 who applied, according to the presentation. At AET, 82 students will be Asian, 51 white and fewer than 10 Black and Hispanic.