Enraged parent lashes out at school board member in tense meeting over Native American mascot
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A Connecticut school board member was punched in the face by an angry parent on Tuesday night during a debate over the future of Glastonbury High School’s Native American-inspired mascot.
The row between parent Mark Finocchiaro and board secretary Ray McFall came during a 10-minute hiatus after spirits heated amid a period of public comment on the Glastonbury’s name Tomahawks, which was changed last year to Glastonbury Guardians. School team logos also changed from a tomahawk, which many found offensive, to a knight’s helmet.
A committee has been formed to consider changing the name and logo of the Tomahawks following nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by a Minneapolis police officer. The choice practically solidified when the National Congress of American Indian subsequently contacted the board of directors and requested that the tomahawk logo and mascot be phased out.
Due to pandemic restrictions at the time, Glastonbury School Board met only online and accepted community views via the internet. A petition launched by residents of Glastonbury argued that the process denied them an “opportunity to make a meaningful contribution” and demanded that the school’s tomahawk logo and mascot be restored. On Tuesday evening, the board held a special meeting to discuss the matter in person.
A cellphone video recorded by passers-by during Tuesday’s session showed Finocchiaro, 53, facing McFall, 57, face to face with the former Marine Corps officer. When McFall gently pushed Finocchiaro away, Finocchiaro responded by punching McFall, who immediately fell to the ground.
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McFall was able to stand up on his own and did not appear to be seriously injured.
Glastonbury Town Councilor John Cavanna was present at the meeting and stepped in to end the altercation.
“I was near the stage when I heard voices going up, and I turned to go over there,” Cavanna, who is also a Hartford Police Department sergeant, told The Daily Beast on Wednesday. . “People in the audience know me as the type of guy who will keep order. So people started shouting my name, and I turned to see Mr. McFall, who had apparently gone to confront the other man.
Before Cavanna could intervene, he said he saw McFall “push the parent”, after which “the parent hit him”.
Cavanna, a 17-year-old police veteran, said he was utterly disheartened by the clashes, adding: “I wouldn’t be surprised if they arrested the two, and it will be up to a judge to decide what happens. ‘happened.”
“Honestly, at the end of the day it’s just sad that something like this must have happened,” Cavanna said. “To see him get to the point where people are physically fighting is just sad. We will never be able to accomplish anything if we don’t work together.
Glastonbury Police Lt. Mark Davis told The Daily Beast the department “is investigating the altercation.”
“No charges have yet been laid, but our investigation is ongoing at this stage,” he said.
Finocchiaro’s niece, Miranda Beach – who was there and videotaped the attack – told the Daily Beast that the family were ordered not to say anything about the confrontation “because we are in contact with lawyers and the police. He doesn’t mean anything until we get it all figured out.
McFall did not respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
In a statement provided to The Daily Beast by the Glastonbury Public School Board, Superintendent Alan Bookman said the board was forced to adjourn the meeting “without voting on the matter”.
“The Board of Education welcomes comments from the public and appreciates that there is always passionate testimony when controversial issues are discussed,” the statement said. “But it’s essential that we listen to each other with respect and follow meeting rules so that everyone can be heard.”
Bookman’s assistant told The Daily Beast he was unable to comment on the incident at this time “because it is a police matter.”
After the school board decided to change the Tomahawks name and logo last year, it called for ideas from students and faculty. Glastonbury High School senior Prasham Vachhani designed the logo – a knight’s helmet – which was ultimately used for the new Glastonbury Guardians.
“I thought of him as a special character in my head,” 18-year-old Vachhani told the Hartford Current in March. “This keeper isn’t backing down, and that’s what we stand for – we’re not backing up, we’re not giving up.”
Some have been shocked by the change, and Glastonbury High senior Erin Cabana launched a petition last year to retain the Tomahawks’ name.
“The Glastonbury High School Tomahawks must stay,” she wrote. “Although I understand his connection to Native Americans, these days tomahawks are a tool that people use everywhere. In fact, there are even tomahawk throwing competitions. It is simply an ax type weapon / tool that was invented by Native Americans. It’s not like Glastonbury ‘steals his tool’ or ‘doesn’t care’ when it is something you can find at any local hardware store and has turned out to be a very useful tool. useful. There’s also no Native American in the logo, it’s just an ax-shaped graphic. What is offensive about an ax? “
Many high schools in Connecticut have abandoned Native American-inspired names and mascots in recent years. In 1996, Newtown High School became the first in the state to update its name from Indians to Nighthawks. In 2015, the North West Catholic High School in West Hartford changed its name from Indians to Lions.
“It was not done for any political correctness, it was done because in our time and in our history, it was the right time to do it,” the Catholic administrator said at the time. from the Northwest, David Eustis. “It wasn’t about being the first. It was about doing what’s right for our 600 children.
Last April, the Indians at Newington High School became the Nor’Easters. A month later, Farmington High School dropped its own Indian name and logo in favor of the River Hawks. On the other hand, Killingly Public Schools in January 2020 reverted to their old name and mascot, the Redmen, in the face of widespread opposition from the community.
The problem is not going to go away any time soon. In February, the West Hartford Public School Board will vote on whether or not to change the names of the Conard High Chieftains and Hall High School Warriors.
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