Renaming of Pennsylvania High School Divides the Community

May 26, 2021 Updated: June 3, 2021

On May 11, the Radnor School District Board in Pennsylvania voted 6-3 in favor of upholding the removal of Radnor High School’s nickname “Raiders” and the accompanying mascot depicting a Native American warrior.

The decision resulted from controversy surrounding the rebranding of the nickname and mascot, which have been in place for over 90 years. Proponents of the name change argue that the name “Raiders” is racist as it was placed together with the image of an Native American, while the other side says the term “Raiders” has no inherent offensive connotations, and that removing it would disrespect the history of the school.

Last September, the Radnor School Board decided to retire the “Raiders” name and all associated Native American imagery from the Radnor School District. According to their official website, the new nickname and logo will be decided on June 29.

A series of meetings were held trying to address the controversy in the last several months. At a May 4 special board meeting, school district superintendent Ken Batchelor admitted that “tension is still high about this topic.”

Those who support the renaming insist that the combination of Native American imagery and the nickname “Raiders” is “offensive” and “racist.” On the other hand, those who want to keep the old nickname argue that the name itself has nothing to do with racism and that it carries the spirit and history of the school and the community.

Another Form of ‘Cancel Culture’

Carol Fetter, born and raised in Radnor, attended Radnor schools from kindergarten all the way to her high school graduation. Fetter was sad to see the division within the community and brought up her concerns during one of the special board meetings.

“People are calling each other harmful names, and kids are being bullied and ostracized,” she said.

She requested the board put the old name as a choice for students to vote on.

“This would just bring back some sense of peace and pride here in Radnor. History runs very deep here. Please don’t cancel it at all,” she said.

Preston Tyrrell, another local resident, questioned why the school board put so much taxpayers’ money into this issue during this pandemic. He viewed the renaming as of little importance to students’ education and believed that it had created an uneasy atmosphere in town.

“Some major words have been launched as weapons, oddly enough by the two people in front of me. Is this the great way to teach our children?” he said.

He also pointed out that if a person supported the name “Raiders,” then they could now be viewed as a racist. “I am uneasy when using that word in this context, as it lessens the impact of those who are the real victims of racism.”

Supporters of the old nickname created a Facebook group called “Keep the ‘Raider’ in Radnor!” that has attracted over 600 members so far. Local resident Hunny Witthoeft initiated an online petition to keep the “Raiders” name, and got over 2,600 supporting signatures.

Tina Descovich is the co-founder of the nonprofit organization Moms for Liberty. She told The Epoch Times that this kind of renaming has happened across the country recently and that it’s part of “cancel culture.”

As for labeling the people who supported the old nickname as being “racist,” Descovich said this phenomenon is unfortunately quite common. “Those that don’t want to debate or don’t know how to debate or don’t have the facts to debate, just bring it right down to name-calling. And that just shuts down communication. It leaves one side unheard. And the results of that are never good,” she said.

Descovich pointed out that society used to look up to great thinkers and debaters and really valued open dialogue on complex issues. But today these principles are gone, and people don’t want to take the time to really dig in and explore ideas and their impact.

Chinese Immigrant: Cultural Revolution Doesn’t Only Change Culture

John Wu is a Chinese immigrant who used to live in the district. He told The Epoch Times that there now exists a tendency to resort to cancel culture in the United States, and that the left is trying to reinterpret the American history.

Wu said they label themselves “progressive,” and “anti-discriminatory,” but in reality, they are targeting traditional culture, which is the foundation of the country. If that’s overthrown, he pointed out, America would not be America anymore, and it would be like a socialist country.

“This is serious. We came from China, and we know that the Cultural Revolution will not end up affecting just the culture. Eventually, it will affect our daily lives, including education. Our kids will face confusion,” Wu said.

Additionally, Wu commented that “racism” and “white supremacy” are now labels that can be used everywhere. But, he said, we need to keep our history and cultural heritage.