A North Bethesda private school will no longer allow students or staff members to wear apparel bearing the Washington Redskins team name or logo, saying such gear is racially offensive and at odds with the school’s mission.
Neal M. Brown, head of school at Green Acres School, wrote to students’ families on Friday to announce the decision, which was first reported Tuesday by Bethesda Beat.
His letter said that over the past year, discussions about the Redskins logo had taken place at multiple levels, including among a staff diversity committee, middle-school students and several parents. Third-graders also raised the issue during their study of Native Americans, and sixth-graders talked about ethnically and racially derived sports team logos as part of the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year.
“Our dress code calls for kids to wear respectful clothing, not to wear anything that is offensive,” Brown said in an interview. “It isn’t a new policy, it’s just the application of our current policy.”
Brown said that the name “Redskin” is a racial slur, and that at best, the team’s logo promotes stereotypes and cultural misunderstanding. He said he has not received any negative response to the announcement and thinks that in light of conversations from the previous year, the decision was not entirely a surprise to parents or students.
Green Acres is at least the second school in the area to ban Redskins gear. Last year, Sidwell Friends School said students could not wear clothing displaying the team name or logo. Former president Barack Obama, whose younger daughter remains a student at Sidwell after her older sister’s graduation, was among the many politicians and sports figures who called on the franchise to rename the team.
Concerns over the team name and logo were widespread in the Green Acres community, Brown said. He added that he did speak with one Native American family on how the issue affected them and their child.
“This wasn’t just about them, but it was a piece of the conversation that was already happening to a certain extent among the kids and the staff,” Brown said.
Green Acres was founded in 1934 as the first racially integrated school in Montgomery County, according to the school’s website. The coeducational school teaches about 250 children, from age 3 through eighth grade.
Students who show up to school in team gear will be dealt with in an age-appropriate manner, Brown said. A 4-year-old’s wearing a team shirt may prompt a phone call home to make sure the parents are aware of the policy, for example, while an older child may be asked to don a Green Acres T-shirt in place of Redskins clothing. Green Acres begins the school year after Labor Day.
Brown said the school is not trying to pass judgment on those who cheer for the local football team. “We have no interest in vilifying anyone who is a fan of the team,” he said. “We didn’t set out to make any statement about the team.”
A May 2016 poll by The Washington Post showed that nine in 10 Native Americans said they were not offended by the Washington Redskins name.
Brown said the rule’s adoption was not taken lightly, given the school’s value for individual expression, including through clothing.
“The need to be respectful outweighed the need to allow children and staff to express themselves as they would like,” Brown said.