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Legislation Could Force A Reckoning For East Peoria's 'Raiders' Mascot

EastSide Community Television / Public Access
The East Peoria Community High School board meets on Sept. 21, 2020.

State legislation expected to come up this year may force East Peoria Community High School to change the Native American mascot the Raiders have used since the school's founding.EPCHS Superintendent Marjorie Greuter said an Illinois High School Association field director told her last week they are "pretty confident" a bill requiring schools using Native American imagery to receive written permission from tribes within 500 miles of them will come up during the Illinois General Assembly's fall veto session.

The school board had an initial conversation about the mascot this week.

Board member Jamie Durdel said East Peoria already made a concession by dropping "Red" from the school team's name years ago, but said more could possibly be done. He said while he understands it's a touchy subject, there are more pressing issues to deal with.

"I don't like the timing," he said. "Honestly, I'm more worried about COVID and keeping kids safe than I am about changing our mascot right now. So that's my biggest thing. I don't mind having the discussion, but I don't feel like this is a priority when we're living in the world that we live in."

In addition to COVID-19, the high school also is dealing with an extra challenge: extensive water damage caused by July flooding that forced the district to start off the school year entirely remotely.

Most board members said they haven't heard much from the community about the mascot. An online petition to keep the mascot currently has about 800 more signatures than one advocating for a change, but board members expressed doubts about using only those as a gauge of popular sentiment.

Greuter said it will be easier to gather a more representative view from current students and graduates once in-person classes resume.

School board president Matt Eckberg said if the legislation passes, the high school may need to change its mascot, but would probably keep the "Raiders" name intact.

"What we would probably be dealing with some of the imagery we use," Eckberg said. "Obviously, the name 'Raider' is not something that has to be tied to that at all. We could stay 'Raiders.'"

The school board ultimately opted to "circle back" to its mascot discussion later in the year when the legislation calls for more immediate action.

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