Why Students Walked Out on Monday (and Why They Didn’t)

Eleanor Adams

On Monday at 9:55 AM, a group of students walked out of class to protest the removal of the “Raider” name. This walkout comes after a lengthy struggle that advocated for this removal, beginning with the advocacy started by the group Radnor for Reform. On September 2nd, the school board moved to do away with both, voting unanimously against the imagery and 8-1 against the name.  The district began the long, turbulent process of deciding on a new mascot. The Mascot Selection and Rebranding Committee began meeting on February 18, which sparked a new wave of advocacy from those in favor of keeping the Raider name, even though it had already been voted out. On Friday, students announced that they planned to walk out in protest of the removal of the name seven months prior. On Monday morning, these students marched in circles around the softball field with signs declaring “Change the mascot, keep the name. Keep the RAIDER in Radnor!”

Levels of passion for the movement varied. Some students led the crowd with chants of “Let’s go Raiders,” and others marched with views similar to sophomore JP Pruett, who noted that he “didn’t think the [walkout] was going to do anything, but it was fun to skip class.” When I looked up, I could see more students in the windows, observing their classmates that circled the field. The debate over the Raider name has only further divided our community, and many of the students that were watching the walkout from afar had starkly different opinions from their peers who were marching. Freshman Zoe Margolies commented, “The Raider name makes me feel kind of disgusted.”

Photo by Sammy Rosin

Many of the students I talked to at the walkout noted that they didn’t support the racist imagery that went along with the name for so long, and they considered the name Raider completely separate from the retired mascot. Senior Emme Healy explained that “[she didn’t] see the harm in the Raider name if the mascot was changed to a pirate or something else.” Another senior Bella Barnabei responded to this argument, noting that “both the imagery and the term “raider” have become synonymous with one another.” The district struggled with the synonymous nature of the mascot and name only eight years ago when the school board ruled to remove the physical mascot (the costumed student parading around at football games). The association with the Raider name and Native American imagery remained,  most notably with the large Native American attached to the side of the school and the placement of feathers on athletic apparel. 

Sophomore Katelyn Miller challenged the racist implications of the mascot and name all together: “I don’t see why white people get to decide if it’s offensive or not.” In a town where the racial makeup is 80.8% white, Miller also brought up the issues of white-savorism and fake-wokeness. She even referenced a rumor she heard: “Two seniors just decided to make this an issue before they leave. I found out from someone that they did for their college applications.” 

When asked why they decided to attend the walkout, several students voiced that the history behind the name and its traditional value  played the largest role in their support of keeping the name. Senior Ashna Luthra used the word “legacy” to describe the “Raider” name’s significance in our community.  Senior Emme Healy is a Radnor legacy, with many family members attending the school over the years. She expressed that she feels as though Radnor “is in [her] blood because it’s where [her] mom grew up.” Healy is not alone in her family’s deep ties to Radnor schools: many community members that grew up here chose to move back and raise their children here as well. The Facebook group “Change The Mascot, Keep The Name” is heavily run by parents and alumni that feel the “Raider” name plays a strong part in their overall Radnor identity. 

Other students put less emphasis on the value of the “Raider” name. When asked if the “Raider” name affects her identity as a Radnor student, senior Ashna Luthra said, “Not really” but she sees how it can affect other people. Other students responded similarly. Sophomore Gavin Slate noted that, “Being a Radnor student in of itself is enough of a feeling of ‘identity’, and that isn’t tied to a mascot or name or any other symbol.”

As to whether or not the walkout will accomplish anything, sophomore Ryan Tobin reflected that it “most likely might not, but [he] just want to do it to represent and express my feelings,” while Emme Healy added that she thinks it will definitely make it “more known that a lot of people are upset with the [school board’s decision].” The “Change The Mascot, Keep The Name” group publicized that their only ask after the walkout was for the school board to add “Raider” with new imagery as an option for the community and student survey. This ask directly goes against the original removal of the name on September 2. 

Last night, the school board held a regular business where they discussed general district achievements and activities, but also addressed Monday’s walkout and the talk surrounding the Renaming Committee process. The board received an overwhelming amount of public comments that were focused on the Raider name; these comments argued both for and against it. Superintendent Dr. Ken Bachelor explained that a goal of the Renaming Committee was to “try to help bring [the] community together” and that he believed that “there are strong and good and fair arguments on [both sides] of this issue.” 

Near the end of the meeting, board members Jubelirer, Monahan, and Duffy called for a special board meeting next Tuesday, May 4th, to discuss the Raider name. At the moment, the district plans for the committee meetings to continue throughout May and have the students vote on two final name options on June 7th and 8th.