Complaint targets school mascots
The Oregon Department of Education is investigating a formal complaint filed with the department by a Eugene resident alleging that the Eugene School District violated Title IX and school policies by using the South Eugene High School Axemen team name.
The complaint also requests that the state implement policies to bar schools from using gender-specific mascots, monikers and team names.
Enacted by Congress in 1972, Title IX bans gender discrimination in education programs that receive federal money.
The Eugene School District in February decided to do away with the Axemen team name, officially changing it to “Axe” after a similar complaint was filed with the district last fall.
The complaint also alleged that the Axemen name discriminated against women, among other claims.
A petition to do away with the name and have it replaced with something “nongender-specific and that better represents the entire student body” generated more than 200 signatures from parents, students and others in the community and was presented to the school.
A counter petition to keep the Axemen team name also circulated, and it garnered more than 3,700 signatures.
The district in January held a public forum and distributed a survey for people to voice their opinions and ultimately decided to change the name.
South Eugene High School Principal Andy Dey stated in his letter of recommendation to Eugene district Superintendent Gustavo Balderas that nearly 75 percent of the respondents to the district’s survey indicated that it was important that the team name represent all students.
He also said that nearly 40 percent of respondents did not agree that the Axemen name accurately represented them.
Dey ultimately said that the change would promote equality and inclusivity.
The ODE complaint, filed Jan. 3, is “pending” at the state education department, meaning that ODE staff are investigating the claims. A spokeswoman with the agency said Thursday that additional information regarding the investigation would not be available until the investigation has concluded.
The complainant, whose name has been redacted from the document, alleges in the complaint that the Axemen name encouraged a sexist culture and asks that ODE “add language to their policies to prevent Oregon schools from using current or future symbols of gender discrimination.”
District spokeswoman Kerry Delf said Thursday that the district is aware of the complaint and is cooperating with the investigation.
“The department has accepted the appeal for resolution because it alleges possible discrimination, not because that allegation has been found to have merit,” Delf said. “While the district generally does not comment in detail on pending complaint investigations or litigation, it should be noted that the district has already thoroughly reviewed and investigated the complaint that has been appealed to the state. The investigation found no substantial evidence upholding the claim of gender discrimination.”
Delf said the district takes the allegations seriously nonetheless.
“The Eugene School District takes very seriously the obligation to prohibit and prevent discrimination and provide equal educational opportunities. The district is committed to providing appropriate, high-quality educational programs and services to all students, regardless of gender or other characteristics, at South Eugene High School and all schools.”
Follow Alisha Roemeling on Twitter @alisharoemeling. Email email@example.com .