Four school mascot names in the Houston area have been banned by the district, as they violate a new policy against “offensive or culturally insensitive” mascots, as KHOU-TV in Houston put it.
The affected schools and their mascots? The Lamar High School Redskins, the Hamilton Middle School Indians, the Westbury High School Rebels, and the Welch Middle School Warriors.
The Houston Independent School District school board voted 7-0 Thursday to approve the new policy, which is expected to go into effect by the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
Superintendent Terry Grier proposed the ban in a column he wrote for the Houston Chronicle last month titled “It’s time to retire school mascots that no longer reflect our values,” specifically naming the four schools and writing that their mascots “must become a part of HISD’s history.”
He noted that “the place for Redskins patches or pennants, or for Confederate symbols, is no longer on the uniforms of our teams and cheer squads. They can be displayed in cases on campuses and explained in history books.”
“We applaud state Sen. Rodney Ellis and the Anti-Defamation League for championing this issue,” Grier added in the column. “Our duty is to be sensitive to the deep passions on both sides at each campus – working to balance the historic significance of these mascots to many with the negative, hurtful and sometimes embarrassed reactions they engender in many others.”
Some Native American leaders said the change is overdue: “You know, it’s just unacceptable to have a dictionary-defined racial slur as a mascot. You know, it’s just demeaning,” Steve Melendez told KUHF-FM in Houston. “It just shows the institutionalized racism that we find in this country.”
Joe Koch, a 1968 graduate of Lamar High School, told KUHF he is “very disappointed. I’ll be a Redskin the rest of myself.” Koch added that he believes the ban goes too far: “They’re just flat nicknames. They’re not meant to hurt these people who are taking offense of it.”
Teenager Marah Melendez, daughter of Steve Melendez, spoke to the board along with her father and gave this reason for favoring the mascot ban: “Because I want to change the history and for the future,” she told KUHF. “Because I don’t want anyone else to be called Redskin anymore.”
On the HISD’s Facebook page, which posted news of the ruling, Dan Shannon commented that the district should rename itself “Political Correctness Kowtowing School District.”