Guilford has adopted a new mascot. The decision to become the Grizziles was made official this week after a vote by the student body.
Guilford, whose former nickname was the Indians, is the latest school in Connecticut to retire nicknames which could be deemed offensive to Native Americans.
Manchester (Redhawks) changed its nickname in 2019 and RHAM (Raptors) did so earlier this year. Farmington’s board of education announced this week it will retire its nickname as well. In 2015, West Hartford’s Northwest Catholic changed from Indians to Lions in 2015. That same year, the town’s public high schools — Hall (Warriors) and Conard (Chieftains) — changed their logos while retaining their nicknames.
In a letter emailed out by Guilford principal Julia Chaffe and athletic director Jake Jarvis, obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, a mascot search committee pared down over 300 entries down to 14 semifinalists. Students in grades 5-12 voted on Nov. 23 and 24 to get the list down to five finalists.
Then the same students voted their top five from there in order. The Grizzlies finished with the highest number of first-place votes and 6,061 overall, followed by the Eagles (5,311), the Seahawks (5,116), the Hawks (4,916) and the Gryphons/Griffins (4,816).
“I think it’s just important that we now have a mascot that represents our school that is not offensive toward anybody. It’s important we made that step,” said senior Moira Kellaher, who plays both soccer and basketball at Guilford High. “It wasn’t just the high school, the middle school kids got to vote. That gave us a mascot the student body as a whole wanted to be represented by, which is really cool.”
Sean Scanlon, the State Representative for the 98th District of Connecticut which includes Guilford, posted a message on Facebook Wednesday afternoon that the student body had made the decision.
“Regardless of whether you wanted the change or wanted a different name, it’s time to support the choice our students made and rally behind our new mascot,” Scanlon said in the post.
Scanlon played both football and lacrosse at Guilford.
“I wore the Guilford Indians’ uniform. I’m proud to be a Guilford High School graduate (2004),” Scanlon said. “It’s time for a change. It was smart to let the kids vote. Would I have personally preferred one of the other (mascots)? Yes, but I think it’s good give them the vote. It’s up to us as adults to stand by what they did, embrace it and move on.”
Christine Cohen, a state senator in the 12th district, tweeted out the poll results. The Grizzlies received 6,061 votes, 700 more votes than the Eagles.
— Christine Cohen (@SenatorCohenCT) December 9, 2020
Guilford’s Board of Education voted on June 29 to drop its nickname after a large number of current and former students, along with parents had voiced their displeasure about continuing with that nickname.
According to a Hearst Connecticut Media account of the meeting, after Superintendent of Schools Paul Freeman had made the recommendation to change the school’s mascot, the nine-member board unanimously voted to do so. It was a nickname Freeman said the school had for approximately 70 years.
“It is my responsibility that this decision did not happen sooner, and for that I apologize,” Freeman said at the meeting.