Lane Tech’s ‘Indian’ symbol closer to removal following LSC vote
by BRIAN NADIG
The Lane Tech High School Local School Council at its Aug. 4 meeting voted in favor of changing the school’s “Indians” name and symbol, which currently includes a Native-American man wearing a feathered headdress.
LSC parent member Benjamin Wong, who graduated from Lane Tech, said that the issue has “fractured” friendships among alumni but that the school’s current symbol does not honor Native-American heritage and needs to be changed. A new symbol would not “change how great of a school Lane Tech is,” he said.
The council’s vote is non-binding, but a letter read at the meeting from the Chicago Public Schools Equity Office indicated that the the school system encourages the launching of a “co-design process” to identify a new symbol if the LSC were to vote to remove the current symbol.
LSC chairwoman Emily Haite said that the equity office asked the council to hold a public forum on the issue and to conduct a questionnaire, which received 9,135 responses.
About 52.5 percent of the respondents voted to remove the school’s symbol, and 47.5 percent voiced support to retain it. About 60 percent of the respondents were alumni, and support for retaining the symbol declined sharply with younger alumni. The other 40 percent of the respondents consisted of students, faculty and community members, and most of them supported the symbol’s removal.
Most of the speakers at the meeting expressed concerns about the symbol and called for its removal.
Lane Tech graduate Jayne Blacker said that as a Native American she would “cut school” on pep rally days due to the offensive images on shirts and the wearing of a headdress by some students. She said that the school’s focus should be on “the students of today” and that it is time for a new symbol.
Student Maxwell Jenkins said that there is “nothing respectful” about the school’s current symbol and that the school now has an opportunity to enhance its “rich tradition,” similar to when the school decades ago made the decision to change its enrollment policy to allow female students to attend the school.
2010 Lane Tech graduate Jetzi Calvin said that the school’s symbol is “oppressive” and “racist” and that “there is no need for further discussion.”
1976 graduate Michael Planthaber said that the school’s symbol and name motivated students to achieve success not only while at school but in their future career. “Warriors shoot for the stars,” he said. “It’s a tradition of Lane.”
Raymond Roschmann said that the symbol represented “a positive value of the school” and that he believes “there is an educational alternative” to changing the symbol.
One of the speakers said that the symbol was not a mascot because the school did not have an official “Indian mascot” performing at sporting events, similar to how the University of Illinois once had at the halftime of football games.
2020 graduate Jude Greiner said that while many alumni may take pride in the school’s symbol, the school needs a new symbol which current students can “have pride in.”
An online petition on www.change.org calling for a new symbol was created by a group of Lane Tech students, and as of 5:50 p.m. Tuesday more than 6,200 people have signed it. “We all want to show our pride in being Lane Tech students by proudly wearing our school apparel in public, but it is difficult to proudly wear apparel that is synonymous with the use of offensive and antiquated stereotypes,” the petition states
The Facebook page for the Lane Tech Alumni Association includes a variety of comments on the issue.
“You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. We all had pride in the Indian mascot, not prejudice,” one poster said.
Another wrote, “There shouldn’t have to be a vote. Just change the mascot (because) it’s the right thing to do. I’m a proud Native woman. I graduated from Lane in 1989. Never did I feel honored by the mascot. Never.”
“It’s 2020, time to modernize. Look to the future, not be stuck in the past. The future students deserve that much. I voted (in a school survey), but honestly asking alum from decades ago is not prudent. We are not your target audience. Your future students should be your focus. Given them an inspiring name they can be proud of, be motivated by,” another poster said.