EAST MARLBOROUGH—A lawsuit was filed Wednesday against Unionville High School seeking a preliminary injunction to postpone a vote by school directors later this month on the fate of the Unionville Indian mascot.
The lawsuit was filed in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas by attorney Scott Cousins, one of many backers of a group of people organizing an effort to save the Indian mascot. He is also a member of a Facebook Page entitled “Save The Indian.”
The suit claims that Cousins and other proponents of the Indian mascot will “suffer immediate, substantial and irreparable harm” if the school directors vote to retire the Unionville High School mascot at the upcoming Aug. 24, 2020 board meeting.
The board’s actions in cancelling the Unionville High School mascot, the lawsuit further states “will cause irreparable and immeasurable harm which cannot be compensated through money damages as the Unionville High School Mascot has been an important part of the District’s history and traditions for over 65 years.”
When contacted Tuesday, John Sanville, superintendent of the Chadds Ford School District, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Cousins is calling for school administrators to set up a Citizen Advisory Committee, consisting of school directors, administrators, parents, students, residents and even members of the Leni-Lenape Indian tribe, for which the mascot is based.
Though a Citizens Advisory Committee on the topic has not been formed, there will be a 90-minute public “conversation” prior to the vote at the board meeting Aug. 24.
Unionville’s mascot has been changed over the years, and today it consists of a letter U with an Indian feather.
In an interview after the suit was filed, Cousins said the issue is largely about the district forming the advisory committee to come up with a recommendation.
“If the committee said let’s get rid of the mascot, I’d be OK with that,” Cousins said.
Cousins said it is somewhat troubling to file a lawsuit as the district faces challenges of getting students back to school during a worldwide pandemic, but if action is taken on the mascot without input from the community a long-standing tradition at Unionville will be lost forever.
“Certainly, American history is replete with horrific acts of violence against Native People,” Cousins said in the suit. “It is without question that Man’s Laws have failed to live up to our founding principles based on Natural Law. Anyone who suggests that Native People have never been victimized has not seriously studied American history. We need to study history — not cancel it, revise it or eradicate it — in order to ensure that the victimization of Native People never happens again. Simply claiming that Native People were victimized in the past, however, is unrelated to whether the Unionville High School Mascot honors these great nations and the proud history of Native People.”
When school directors do vote on the issue – an issue that has been debated for the past nine years – Cousins is asking them to vote not for their personal wishes, but for the wishes of the community they serve.
“Those community voices should not be suppressed by a hurried process in the summer months during a global pandemic,” Cousins said.
In the court filing, Cousins describes himself as a Christian, adult, white, heterosexual male who is an interested community resident living in the district, whose ancestors were not white European imperialists, but were poor, working class people fleeing Europe for the promise of the New World. Cousins described his ancestors as not believing that they were inherently superior to non-white groups, did not support the genocide of Native Peoples and fought to end 250 years of African slavery. Cousins said he “shares his ancestors’ blood and the wisdom of their collective beliefs.”
Mascots and logos of other local sports teams in Chester County area also under assault, but so far there's been no organized effort to eliminate those logos. Some of the teams include the Coatesville Red Raiders, the Ocotrara Braves, and the Henderson High Warriors.
The issue comes at a time when national teams like the Washington NFL Redskins franchise decided to retire its nickname and logo and the Cleveland Indians baseball team is considering a similar action.