Maryland school prohibits students from wearing 'racially demeaning' Redskins apparel

A Maryland school is barring students from wearing Washington Redskins gear on campus, calling the team name "insulting and offensive" and the logo "racially demeaning."

Neal Brown, head of Green Acres School in Bethesda, Maryland, told ABC News that the rule will be put into place on Tuesday, Sept. 5.

"It's not a new policy or a new ban, but an articulation of our current policy to wear clothing that is always respectful and not offensive," Brown said. "We do believe the name of our team is a racial slur and we don't see why we should tolerate a racial slur in our community. I think the conversations we've been having with the kids have been a wonderful opportunity, as well."

Brown said the school's decision came after the issue was raised during a 3rd-grade lesson about Native American culture. The students, along with the 6th graders, also engaged in a discussion of racially–derived sports team logos during an activity for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The Redskins have been engaged in a legal battle over their name after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled in 2014 that the name was offensive and canceled the team’s trademark, according to The Associated Press.

But this past June, the Supreme Court struck down part of a law banning offensive trademarks in a case involving an Asian-American rock band called the Slants. According to The Associated Press, Lisa Blatt, an attorney for the Redskins, said that court decision in effect resolved the team's dispute over its trademarked name. Less than 10 days later, the Justice Department advised that a lower court should rule in favor of the Redskins.

A Native American family also expressed concern about the NFL team's name and logo and raised awareness for discussion, according to Brown.

But a Washington Post poll published in May 2016 found that nine in 10 Native Americans said they are not offended by the Washington Redskins name. More than seven in 10 said they didn’t feel the word “redskin” was disrespectful to Native Americans.

Green Acres School is about 23 miles from FedEx Field, the Redskins' headquarters and training facility in Landover, Maryland. Brown said the Redskins are a popular, local team and many of the school's 250 students are fans who wear team apparel.

In a letter sent to parents on Aug. 25, Brown gave a detailed explanation as to why he wants to do away with clothing that advertises the Redskins name or team logo.

"The local football team has been around a long time and has experienced great successes; loyalty to this beloved team and passion for the game of football are understandably strong among many of our students, families, and staff members," the letter reads. "Clearly, there is nothing wrong with rooting for one’s team."

It continues: "At the same time, the term 'Redskin' is a racial slur. Its use, whether intentional or not, can be deeply insulting and offensive. It is a term that demeans a group of people. Similarly, the team’s logo also can reasonably be viewed as racially demeaning. At best, the image is an ethnic stereotype that promotes cultural misunderstanding; at worst, it is intensely derogatory."

A similar ban on Redskins gear was implemented in 2016 at the Sidwell Friends School, which has campuses in Washington, D.C.

“This spring, students proposed to make the wearing of clothing with the name and logo of the Washington National Football League team a violation of the school’s dress code,” Ellis Turner, an associate head of school at Sidwell, told The Washington Post at the time. “The school administration accepted the proposal in a show of support for student voice and unity on the issue.”

A spokesperson for the Washington Redskins team organization was unavailable for comment to ABC News' request.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the term redskin was first recorded in the 18th century and translated to a "person with red skin." Oxford said the word is currently considered "dated or offensive."

Brown admitted that not all members of the community are on board, but they respect the decision of the school.

"The people who disagree with it still see why it's part of our school's mission and philosophy," Brown said. "I'm a fan, many people are huge fans of our team and we don't want those kids or adults to feel like they can't continue to do that. We are just trying to live up to our community's values and do the right thing at our small school."

He said they also considered the idea that some kids want to express their support for the team.

"The need to be respectful outweighed the need for individual expression," Brown said.

© 2017 ABC News


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