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Motion to name Laney High School’s football field fails at school board meeting

Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 6:55 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A motion to name Laney High School’s football field after former football coach Larry Tootoo failed to pass during New Hanover County School’s September interim board meeting Tuesday evening.

The motion failed 3-4. School board members Pete Wildeboer, Stephanie Walker and Judy Justice were in favor of naming the field but, according to Stephanie Kraybill, to name it after an individual would mean waiving Policy 5400.

Policy 5400 addresses the “Naming or Renaming of a School or Facility.” It clearly states that “Any new or renamed school will be named for geographic terms related to the area of the county served. New or renamed facilities may only be named for geographic terms or with words or terms that have meaning for a given school.”

There were different interpretations of Policy 5400 at Tuesday night’s meeting, but school board vice chair Nelson Beaulieu said that the intent since the policy passed has always been to avoid names.

“The policy doesn’t explicitly ban names, but I think the intent of it, and I was on the board when it passed, the intent seemed to be to make sure that we were naming facilities after geographic regions or words that had special meaning to the school,” Beaulieu said.

Justice, who taught at Laney high school, argued that Tootoo is more than just a name and does have special meaning to the school.

“He was such a beloved coach that they literally nickname the field even now, you know, Tootoo’s field, so it’s a meaning, it’s not just a person that they’re naming it after,” Justice said.

The actual stadium was renamed during a July meeting to Buccaneer Stadium. It was previously named after Dr. Rick Holliday, a former principal at Laney who retired as the school system’s deputy superintendent in 2019.

More than 4,000 people signed a petition to have Holliday’s name removed from the stadium after he came under fire for his and other administrators’ handling of alleged wrongdoings in the school system.

Although former Laney football coach Larry Tootoo received the most votes from the public during the renaming process, the board ultimately voted to rename the stadium Buccaneer Stadium, mostly because of Policy 5400.

Several board members still wanted to find a way to honor Tootoo and had suggested that the actual field be named after the long-time coach.

During the board’s August meeting, board member Judy Justice made a motion to establish a survey to name the football field. The motion was denied so the item was moved forward for further review in 60 days.

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