Hiawatha Some leaders are concerned about race relations after seeing the reaction to the Hiawatha school board's decision to stop the use of American Indian mascots at three schools in the district.
Edmore Green, chairman of a committee promoting cultural sensitivity, Kickapoo tribe member Leslie Hale and Supt. John Severin met Thursday with a U.S. Justice Department mediator to discuss race relations in Hiawatha.
Green, Hale and Severin are concerned, at least in part, by some messages posted on a Web site dedicated to retaining mascots in the district.
Green and Hale said their main concern was whether there is racism within the school district.
In December, school board members voted 4-3 that the high school, junior high and elementary drop the Redskins, Warriors and Braves mascots. The change was well-received among Indian groups and Indian leaders in northeast Kansas.
However, a group of Hiawatha graduates and community members began organizing a coalition to reverse the decision or remove the board members who voted for it.
Some people have complained that messages on the Web site are derogatory.
Some messages apparently have been attributed to people who didn't write them, including one that appeared last week under Green's name.
The site now warns people against posting messages with derogatory remarks or under other people's names.
Joseph M. Rodriguez, senior conciliation specialist with the Justice Department, said he would have to gather more information before deciding how the agency would participate in the discussion.
In the past, the department's community relations service has resolved racial and ethnic disputes through mediation.
Hale said he wished the city and its school district could move beyond the mascot issue.
"I'm against fighting among ourselves," he said. "If we had as much energy focused on education as we do on this mascot issue, we could have the No. 1 school in the state maybe the nation."