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West Orange Cove CISD drops 'chain-gang' nickname for football team's defense, adds African-American studies

A statement from the superintendent said the board “as champions for all children” stands “firm that ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

ORANGE, Texas — The West Orange Cove CISD board of trustees is making changes to make sure their students are represented in a positive light.

A document posted to the district’s Facebook page Wednesday morning began by noting that “in the light of the current social unrest” in the country the board recognized that they serve a diverse community.

The statement, from superintendent Dr. Rickie Harris, went on to state that the board “as champions for all children” stands “firm that ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

The board is doing away with "chain gang,” a long-time nickname used by the defense of the West Orange-Stark High School football team according to the announcement.

The nickname is being dropped due to the “negative historical root of the phrase” according to the statement.

The team’s defensive squad will now be referred to as the “Blue Link” defense.

The district will also be offering an African-American studies course beginning in the fall according to the document.

The Texas Education Agency approved course will be offered for students in grades 9 – 12.

"We desire to exhibit appropriate leadership and to guide to our students on the path of political and social awareness by demonstrating sensitivity while maintaining a safe and protective educational environment,” Harris wrote in the statement.

Currently the Orange County school district plans to resume class on August 12, 2020, but that date could be changed.

Full statement from Dr. Rickie Harris…

In light of the current social unrest in our country, and recognizing that we serve a diverse community, the West Orange-Cove CISD Board of Trustees and superintendent, with much thought and deliberation, would like to state our position. As champions for all children, we stand firm that "Black Lives Matter." 

Our mission is to transform lives through an exceptional educational experience. Our mission calls us to support, educate, and ensure a positive representation for all WOCCISD students. As a district, we will respond to this crisis of social injustice as we responded to the crisis of Hurricane Harvey, Tropical Storm Imelda, and COVID 19. Our response, then and now, will be to provide support to any of our staff or students that need emotional, mental, and physical help that this crisis may bring. 

Additionally, our response calls for us to educate our students and ensure that our students are aware of their complete history. Our Board of Trustees approved the offering of African American Studies as a course at West Orange-Stark High School, beginning this fall 2020. Without a proper understanding of the past, it is difficult to understand the present and the future. 

To that end, we are compelled to ensure that our students are always represented positively. Many refer to our football team's defensive unit as the "Chain Gang." Due to the negative historical root of the phrase, we will no longer refer to our defensive unit as the "Chain Gang." From this moment forward, we will be the "Blue Link" defense. We desire to exhibit appropriate leadership and to guide our students on the path of political and social awareness by demonstrating sensitivity while maintaining a safe and productive educational environment. 

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