A West Hartford resident, who is an attorney, submitted a letter to all Board of Education members on May 17, requesting that the vote to change the nicknames be rescinded because it violated multiple Board policies.
By Ronni Newton
West Hartford resident Scott Zweig, an attorney who is opposed to the Board of Education’s decision to retire the Hall Warrior and Conard Chieftain nickames, sent a letter to all Board members requesting that the Feb. 1 vote regarding the nicknames be rescinded immediately and all actions to change names ceased “because the actions of the Board lacked due process and constitute unlawful violations of Board policies.”
Zweig has previously addressed the Board several times during public comment, written an Op-Ed published on We-Ha.com, has been leading an effort to get signatures on a petition requesting the Town Council address the issue or allow the electors to decide, and facilitated Schaghticoke Tribal Nation Chief Richard Velky’s presentation on May 3.
The West Hartford Board of Education voted on Feb. 1 to change the nicknames of Conard and Hall, and the process is well underway at both high schools to develop new names and mascots – alternatives to the current Chieftains and Warriors. Assistant Superintendent for Administration Andy Morrow said Tuesday that students at both schools will have their final vote on the mascots this week.
The Board of Education plans to give final approval to the choices at its June 7 meeting – the last meeting of the academic year. The intent is for implementation of the new nicknames and mascots to begin prior to the start of fall sports for the 2022-2023 academic year.
The Board has not indicated any plans to reconsider the decision made on Feb. 1 to retire the current nicknames.
West Hartford Corporation Counsel Dallas Dodge provided We-Ha.com with the following statement Wednesday in response to Zweig’s letter:
“The decision by the Board of Education to discontinue the use of the Chieftain and Warrior names at our high schools was not only procedurally appropriate, it is entirely consistent with local and state education policies on diversity, equity and inclusion. While Attorney Zweig makes ridiculous threats to bring frivolous litigation against West Hartford, the school district has engaged in a deliberative and inclusive process to choose new team names. I certainly respect the fact that many people disagree with the decision of the Board of Education, but it is important for West Hartford to move beyond this divisive issue, and I strongly encourage Attorney Zweig to pursue a more collaborative and productive path going forward.”
The letter, a complete copy of which is attached below as a PDF, states that the decision violates Policy 1700, which pertains to “School Nicknames and Images” and permits the continued use of Chieftain and Warrior. That policy has neither been amended nor repealed, Zweig’s later states.
Zweig also asserts that the Board is in violation of its “Educational Equity” Policy 1800, because it has not applied the policy equitably to address continued use of the name of King Philip – a Native American Chief – for one of the town’s middle schools.
The Board has failed to have two public readings of the proposal to change the nicknames, which are substantive amendments to the existing Policy 1700, and in violation of Policy 8310,”Formulations, Adoption, Amendment of Policies and Bylaws,” he states.
And, Zweig asserts in his letter, the Board also violates Policy 8120, “Limits of Authority,” because they directed the principals at the high schools to appoint committees to develop new names although the Board is prohibited from “command[ing] the service of any school district employee.”
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