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BHS Indian logo alternately described as 'offensive' & symbol of 'pride'

BELMONT — Once a Raider, always a Raider.

About 60 people, including students, teachers, parents and alumni, came to a Belmont High School Student Council forum last night to air their views about changing the Red Raider mascot from a chiseled silhouette of an American Indian to something else.

But a majority of those who spoke said they wanted to keep the school logo — including a number of students who said they took pride in being represented by the American Indian symbol.

"I'm not in favor of a change," said Belmont resident Tina Fleming, who said the mascot to her represents strength, pride and loyalty.

"We take pride in being Red Raiders," said one student athlete who said the school has never had costumed mascots or "paraded" around an American Indian. He said to him the symbol means the Red Raiders work hard and play hard.

The subject of changing the logo stems from a discussion held in a social studies class that led to the topic being discussed at recent Student Council meeting. Student Council member Andrew Bragg said he spoke with three students who came to Belmont High from a reservation and one of them told him he felt uncomfortable about the Red Raider logo.

The members of the student council decided that the logo — not the name of the team — was "unfeeling" and "offensive", said Principal Dan Clary.

He also said the student council said that keeping the American Indian as a symbol meant the school could not have a live mascot or paint the logo on the gymnasiums floors or playing fields. In the school, the only noticeable replica of the silhouette that had the name Red Raider on it was the message board in the cafeteria that was a gift to the school from the class of 2010.

Yet others said they were offended by the logo and wished it would change.

"It's just ugly," said one Canterbury man, who said he didn't think the logo was meant to be disrespectful but over the march of time has become so.

One woman who initially addressed the Student Council in Navajo said she was proud of them taking on such a difficult conversation and it made proud to be a citizen of Belmont.

The students began the meeting with two short videos produced by the National Congress of American Indians that showed American Indians saying they were offended by being portrayed as mascots.

Bragg explained that the words "red" and "raider" individually were not offensive nor were they offensive together. He said coupling the team name of Red Raiders with the American Indian head was what was offensive.

Student Council Historian Ashley Fenimore — who is a descendent of James Fenimore Cooper — said this is not the first time the logo has come under negative scrutiny. She also provided lists of colleges and school districts that have changed their logos and mascots and cited a ruling in 1998 by the NCAA and one in 2002 by the New Hampshire School Board Association saying that schools should not have mascots or logos that seemingly offend any national heritage.

Fenimore also noted that Lebanon High School recently voted to change their symbol from an American Indian to a "Raider Bird" however Spaulding High School, also the Red Raiders, voted against change. A dozen years ago and after a similar discussion, the Laconia Sachems changed their logo and stopped having a faux Indian lead cheers at football games.

The next step in the process is for the Student Council to compile the information gathered at last night's hearing and present it to the teachers and administrators for comment.

After that, and if they choose to continue with their efforts to change the logo, the matter will go before the Shaker Regional School Board, which has the final say.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 01:43

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Commissioners express frustration that lawmakers haven't acted on union deal

LACONIA — Belknap County Commissioners expressed frustration yesterday that a date has not yet been set by the Belknap County Convention for a vote on the one-year collective bargaining agreement they ratified two weeks ago with the State Employees Association (SEA) on behalf of 80 full-time employees of the Belknap County Nursing Home.
When Belknap County Administrator Debra Shackett said at yesterday's meeting at the Belknap County Complex that she had already made a verbal request of convention Chairwoman Collette Worsman for such a meeting and that Worsman had said she wanted to wait until there was an updated report on the budget, Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) said ''that has nothing to do with the contract'' and charged that she was trying to keep the commissioners from governing.
Shackett said that she has since submitted a formal written request to the convention that it meet to act on the contract and noted that the applicable state law says that ''upon written request of the commissioners, the convention shall schedule a meeting to act upon the request.''
The costs of the contract total $336,170 and include $267,343 more for health insurance, $22,361 for a cost of living adjustment of 1.6-percent, $35,759 for merit increases for eligible employees and $10,705 for associated payroll costs, for a total of $336,170.
The 2014 county budget adopted by the Belknap County Convention level-funded the employer share of health insurance benefits at $1,272,449 but included nothing for wage increases or associated payroll costs. Funding will still have to be approved by the Belknap County Convention in the form of a supplemental appropriation.
The agreement provides for the employees' share of health insurance premiums to increase from 6.5 percent to 16.5-] percent for a single person plan, from 5-percent to 15-] percent for both a two-person and a family plan. However, the contribution would remain unchanged for employees who participate in three health management programs that include the health assessment, biometric screening and on health awareness program as defined by HealthTrust.
Commissioners agreed to a request from the employee union that workers be allowed to use the four parking spaces allocated to county officials at the entryway to the county complex on the date the convention meets to vote on the collective bargaining agreement. Shackett said the workers intend to carry signs urging support for the recently negotiated contract.
The commissioners agreed to park their vehicles in a different location on the day of the vote.
The commissioners also heard that there has been a delay in receiving a Community Development Block Grant for the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region due to a request for a historic inventory of the former Saint James Episcopal Church building which the club is acquiring.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 01:14

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3 youngsters now say they saw fatal accident

LACONIA — Three new eyewitnesses to the car crash that killed a local middle school girl and serious injured another on April 19, 2013 have come forward, prompting both sides to agreed to delay Amy Lafond's trial until at least June or July.

Lafond, who is represented by attorney Mark Sisti, had been scheduled to stand trial on May 5; however, in light of the new witnesses, Belknap County Judge James O'Neill III granted the extension.

Lafond, 53, is charged with is charged with manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide for allegedly causing the death of Lilyanna Johnson after she allegedly went around a car that was stopped at a crosswalk, drove up on the sidewalk on Messer Street and struck Miner and her friend Allyssa Miner.

Lafond is charged with one count of second-degree assault for the injuries she allegedly cause Miner, who, among other things, suffered a broken pelvis.

Lafond also faces numerous drug and traffic charges.

According to Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen, the three eyewitnesses are juveniles who say they saw what happened that afternoon but didn't stay at the scene. They left before police arrived and were never interviewed.

In a hearing in Belknap Superior Court yesterday that was attended by nearly 20 supporters of the two girls, Guldbrandsen said one of the parents of one of the juveniles contacted her to learn why her child hadn't been contacted by officials.

Additionally, one of the juveniles now lives in Maine, which means an involved procedure to get him or her to New Hampshire for depositions and possible testimony.

Sisti said he thinks at least one of these juveniles has information that could alter the report created by the Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team. Guldbrandsen disagrees.

She agreed that both sides should have more time before trial to interview the three but said she is "not sure they would impact the accident reconstruction."

Both attorneys told O'Neill they were planning on filing motions in limine — motions to either include or exclude information at the trial.

Gulbrandsen said she will file a motion to include a video animation of the accident made by the BRAIT. Sisti said he may contest it being introduced as evidence but hasn't decided yet.

Sisti said he would be filing a motion to exclude the blood test taken on Lafond because of a 1999 memorandum from the N.H. Attorney Generals Office about the procedures surrounding consented-to blood draws.

All agreed that a larger-than-normal jury pool will be assembled and Sisti said he will ask to individually question potential jurors.

Typically, jurors fill out a questionnaire and each attorney submits questions to the judge who asks them of the potential jurors. Sisti would like to question potential jurors directly.

Opposing counsel has 10 days to reply to motion and if hearings are necessary, they will be scheduled accordingly.

Guldbrandsen noted that a number of potential witnesses are Laconia police officers and for two weeks in June most if not all of them will be involved in policing Motorcycle Week.

O'Neill said once the trial started it was going to continue until its completion and all agreed it could take three weeks.

Lafond remains held at the Belknap County Jail in lieu of posting $50,000 cash bail.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 01:03

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$5k cash bail holding man accused of driving drunk through Belmont school zone at 72 mph

BELMONT — A Northfield man is being held on $5,000 cash bail after allegedly driving 72 mph while in a posted 25 mph zone near Belmont Elementary School.

Police said Derek Rollins, 28, was also driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and had marijuana in his possession. He is charged with one count of disobeying an officer, one count of reckless operation, one count of driving while intoxicated — subsequent offense, and one count of possession of a controlled drug.

According to affidavits, Rollins was driving a 2000 Ford Mustang at 3:15 p.m. on Gilmanton Road when Lt. Rich Mann, who was standing near crosswalk doing traffic control, saw his green Mustang approaching the crosswalk from the east at a high rate of speed.

Mann, who was in a police uniform and wearing a yellow blaze vest identifying him as a police officer, waved his hands in an effort to get Rollins to stop. He said the Rollins refused to slow down or stop when ordered.

Rollins then passed an unmarked police car being driven by Police Chief Mark Lewandoski in a curvy area of the road marked with double yellow lines.

Mann said he ran to his cruiser, called to other officers to help intercept Rollins who finally stopped at the red light and the intersection of Route 106 and Route 140. Lewandoski had activated his lights and siren and was directly behind Rollins at the light.

Rollins was removed from his car but not before Lewandoski said he saw him throw a wine bottle from the car. The wine bottle was recovered as well as a glass pipe with marijuana residue from the back seat of his car.

A Department of Corrections media spokesman said yesterday Rollins is on parole for a 2013 conviction of being a felon in possession of a dangerous weapon, two counts of sales of marijuana and one count of manufacturing marijuana. He was sentenced to serve 1 to 3 years in the N.H. State Prison and has been on parole since September of 2013. His maximum end date is June 3, 2015.

In the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday, Rollins attorney said his parole officer who is from Merrimack County had told him she was going to petition the N.H. Parole Board for a detention order.

By holding him on $5,000 cash for the new charges, Rollins will be able to use the time he waits for his trial in the Belknap County House of Corrections as credit toward any sentence he may get in the new charges should he be convicted of any of them.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:49

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