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Colton School District will no longer use the term, but community not ready to let it go

PMG FILE PHOTO - The Colton School District recently clarified that the district's mascot is the Colton Vikings. The district will not use the nickname 'Lady Vikings' to refer to its female athletes.

When the Colton School District sent a series of communications around the Lady Vikings name, confusion and controversy ensued.

In the initial communication on Feb. 25, the athletic department announced that the district wished to clarify that Colton has one mascot for all students: the Vikings. The email brought into question the inclusivity of the term "Lady Vikings."

Community members took to social media to resist the perceived change.

"Colton school parents RISE UP!! STOP THE MADNESS!!!" Don Washburn said in a comment on Facebook. "Won't be long and your children will be doing studies on Karl Marx and Chairman Mao Zedong and the abolition of the Constitution."

Another commenter, Michael Thomas, tied the conversation back to the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"And everybody's wondering why our Capitol building was paid a visit in Washington," Thomas said. "Are you all starting to figure it out? Next they are going to make you change the name of your kid or they won't be allowed in school."

Many commenters used the word "ridiculous" to describe the notion of leaving the Lady Vikings name behind.

But according to Colton Superintendent Koreen Barreras-Brown, the goal was never to take the Lady Vikings name from those in the community who hold the term dear. Fans, she said, can continue to wear their Lady Vikings gear if they wish to do so, and students can refer to themselves by the name.

But the district will not refer to female athletes by their nickname, the Lady Vikings.

"It is about equity," Barreras-Brown said. "And we do need to be very clear that we are the Vikings and that all students, however they identify, are welcome. We can't leave kids out."

Students weighed in through an anonymous form on what they think about the term "Lady Vikings."

About 75% of the students who responded were fine with or fond of the term.

"I absolutely love being called a lady Viking," one student said. "It defines who I am."

A few students said they liked the name because it's been used for a long time.

"I will be a third-generation lady Vik, and I couldn't be more proud about it," another student said. "I feel this term is absolutely perfect and necessary for our girls sports teams. And I wouldn't want it any other way."

But some of the students found the nickname to be sexist.

"It feels gross," one student said. "I don't feel like girls should be put in a different category than the boys. The boys aren't called 'gentlemen Vikings,' so why call the girls something different? Not only does it separate two groups and make one seem 'different,' it also excludes those who don't identify as male or female. It makes me uncomfortable and I'm sure it would make others. It makes the girls of our school seem as though their only trait is that they are a girl and that they wouldn't just be a 'viking.'"

The conversation around the district's mascot first came as the result of a photo of the softball team that appeared in an OSAA Today story. In the photo, the Lady Vikings name was visible in the background.

COURTESY PHOTO: OSAA TODAY - This picture of the Colton Vikings softball team caused the school district to pause and clarify its use of the term 'Lady Vikings.'

The photo, Barreras-Brown said, prompted the district to clarify its use of the name and to internally audit all practices related to equity and Title IX, the federal anti-discrimination law.

"It wasn't just auditing for Lady Vikings," Barreras-Brown said. "It was really about auditing for equity and inclusion and making sure that we were following that, we were practicing our core beliefs and practicing our equity statement or equity policies in a way that was inclusive of all people."

The Colton school board recently adopted a district equity statement that reads:

"The Colton School District is committed to equity and inclusion of all students, families, and staff within our schools. Equity fosters an inclusive and barrier-free environment where each person feels a strong sense of belonging. Within inclusive learning environments, all students have access to a high-quality education and can follow their own path in reaching their full potential. The Colton School District embraces and affirms each person's identity inclusive of race, ethnicity, family economics, mobility, language, marital status, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and religion."

"So, I was following that statement," Barreras-Brown said, adding, "This is the work that we have chosen to do."

As for Lady Vikings murals, Barreras-Brown said they likely will be painted over eventually in a process that involves the students and leaders.

"It's their walls in their school," Barreras-Brown said. "At every school, you redo murals all the time. And you do it in a way where you're getting feedback and you're hearing people's perspectives. … It would be a process. But I am hoping that when we walk through that that people will want to have a different mural painted on the wall."

Kristen Wohlers
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