BRATTLEBORO — Some 70 years after the former logo and mascot first appeared, most vestiges of "Colonels" are gone for the start of the new school year at Brattleboro Union High School this week, having been replaced by the "Bears."
"New [athletic team] uniforms have been ordered and most have come in," said Kathy Rouleau, administrative assistant to the principal.
In the spring, students began meeting to choose a new mascot after widespread outcry to remove the Colonels name.
Also in contention were the names "Bobcats" and "Badgers," but students chose the Bears with 47.5% of total votes.
School colors will remain purple and white. The summer rebranding included new uniforms and changing images on scoreboards, badges, signs, and the school website and letterhead.
Student Eva Gould, a member of the mascot screening committee, explained the process and decision to Windham Southeast School District school board members in June.
"At the heart of this committee's work has been the very delicate task of respecting traditions from the past, while building upon a vision for the future," she said.
"The challenge for our community as we go forth is to now model the same ability to respect our past, while we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our current student body in embracing their future," Gould continued.
In seeking the board's approval of the change to the Brattleboro Bears, she said that the teams would be named for the "fiercely protective animals who have been known to walk upon our very campus, have powerful instincts, high intelligence, highly developed communication skills, and are well known for their self-confidence and strength and therefore symbolize worthy characteristics for our mascot."
"Thank you to everyone who participated in the process, and go, Bears!" Gould concluded.
A contentious name
The BUHS Student Council adopted the Colonels moniker for its sports teams in the 1950s, after the high school had moved to a location that had previously served as a mustering ground and field hospital for Union troops during the Civil War.
According to Brattleboro Area Middle School teacher Joe Rivers, the name also was linked to Col. William Brattle, a Revolutionary War soldier after whom the town was named.
Over time, the mascot image morphed into a Southern-style colonel, apparently a copy of the mascot of the University of Mississippi and used without permission. In 1996, the Colonel was incorporated with a confederate flag in the yearbook.
The image was banned in 2004 - the same year the University of Mississippi dropped the same logo - but the BUHS sports teams continued to use the name despite controversy over the image with an overt connection to slavery and racist roots.
In February, the nonprofit advocacy groups the Rutland Area NAACP and Gedakina filed formal complaints about school mascots across the state, including the BUHS Colonels.
The complaints were prompted by the passage of the Nondiscriminatory School Branding act in 2022, intended to "eliminat[e] the use of discriminatory school branding, which undermines the educational experiences of members of all communities and perpetuates negative stereotypes."
This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.