Band changes name for city

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 15, 2005

A musical group whose planned appearance in Suffolk touched off a school board protest over their &uot;offensive&uot; name has agreed to perform under a different name.

According to Suffolk city manager R. Steven Herbert, &uot;Special Ed and the Shortbus&uot; will play under the name of &uot;Muskrat Family BBQ,&uot; when it performs next month as part of the Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina Concert Series.

School Board Chairman Lorraine B. Skeeter, in a June 2 letter to Mayor Bobby L. Ralph, explained the board’s opposition.

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&uot;For those who might not understand the derogatory nature of this name, many students with disabilities require some type of accommodation while being transported to their education program,&uot; she wrote. &uot;Students with disabilities are often segregated to smaller buses due to the necessity of a wheelchair lift, program locations and human resource assistance during transport. These buses are often labeled ‘short buses’ by those insensitive to students with special needs.&uot;

She noted that Suffolk Public Schools currently has 1,696 students with disabilities and that more than 300 are transported on special buses.

&uot;These students are most often not able to advocate for themselves,&uot; she wrote, &uot;but this 13 percent of our student population deserves the same dignity and respect as all our students.&uot;

Skeeter said Tuesday that she was satisfied with the name change.

&uot;We much appreciate them reconsidering the name and changing it,&uot; she said. &uot;We do appreciate the consideration given to our request by parks and recreation.

Skeeter said the board became

concerned when a parent appeared before them at a meeting complaining that the band’s name was offensive to special needs students.

Herbert noted in his June 9 response to Skeeter’s letter that &uot;the band makes no derogatory references in their performance or on their website to individuals or groups with disability.&uot;

He wrote that band members have worked with special education groups in conjunction with the Save the Bay Foundation and other fundraising/charity events.

&uot;Some of these include Circle of Friends helping Children with Downs Syndrome, several events with the Richmond area Ruritan Clubs, a tsunami relief concert and a voting drive,&uot; he wrote.

The summer concert series at Constant’s Wharf Park kicks off Friday, June 24 with Bio Ritmo, a salsa group. For more information about the series, call 923-2360.