Hart Union High School District board votes to remove Indian mascot by 2025 – Daily News
The William S. Hart Union HIgh School District Board of Directors voted 4 to 1 to replace the Indian High School mascot by 2025 at its meeting on Wednesday, July 14.
Community members from the Santa Clarita area, Hart High students and graduates, parents and staff exchanged lively remarks about the mascot’s plight during the reunion. At times, Cherise Moore, the chairman of the board, warned those in attendance to refrain from overflows and threatened to have disruptive people kicked out by a deputy sheriff.
To resolve the discussion, school board member Bob Jensen made a detailed proposal to remove the mascot from the Indians by June 30, 2025.
Jensen’s proposal included recommendations for Hart High to create a mural depicting Native American history and traditions, to establish a Native American cultural center in Hart’s name on campus, to erect a plaque in honor of the Native Americans and update the Hart High student manual to include the importance of Native American influences on the school and community.
Additionally, Jensen offered:
- Amend the constitution of Hart High School to add an honorary name, the Fernandeno-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians;
- “Honorably removing” the Indian from Hart High’s constitution as a mascot; and
- Let the student body and staff at Hart High choose a new mascot name.
“It’s important for me to find a way to do things related to education,” Jensen said. “That’s the whole story. Being a member of a school board is about seeing things from an education perspective and how can we better educate everyone.
The Indians have been the mascot of Hart High School in Newhall since its founding in 1945.
More than 100 people attended the meeting and the crowd spilled from the board meeting room to the entrance to the school district building. Some of the people in attendance were in the council chamber and nearly 50 people asked to speak at the meeting.
Not everyone at the meeting was happy with the board’s decision. Hart High graduate and Santa Clarita resident Ronda Chobanian-Murray said she was disappointed with the vote, but accepted the board’s decision.
“It has been an uphill battle, but I respect their decision,” she said. “I’m not very surprised, given the times we live in, the culture and this climate of change. I think they have made, in a way, a compromise and that at least the students who are currently in school will not need to change.
David Barlavi, a member of the Saugus Union School District in Santa Clarita, applauded the board’s decision but said he wished the change had happened more quickly.
“They could have done it in 12 or 24 months,” Barlavi said. “Four years is more like an electoral type thing, leaving it open to change, more havoc with the arrival of new board members.”
Barlavi added that it was clear that Jensen listened to the concerns of the Fernandeno-Tataviam Mission Indian Band and included ways to honor their history and traditions.
“As for the details of the plan, I liked that it was focused on education, I like the way it tried to respect murals and things of that nature,” Barlavi said.
Moore said she believed the school board made the right decision, even though it turned out to be difficult.
“Whenever you have a lot of energy, you have a lot of opportunity,” Moore said. “Change is difficult. Change is not something we adapt to easily because it means the end of something that you have known for so long. I understand that.”
Many Native American themed mascots have been removed by southern California high schools:
- The Los Angeles Unified School District voted to remove Native American mascots in 1997;
- Birmingham High School in Van Nuys changed their mascot from the Braves to the Patriots in 1998;
- Alemany High School in Mission Hills, a private Catholic school that was established in 1956, changed its mascot from Indians to Warriors in 2006; and
- In December, the student body at John Burroughs High School in Burbank voted to change their mascot, dropping the Indian nickname and going for the Bears.
The NFL team in Washington, DC, have stopped using a term considered offensive for decades as a mascot, opting instead for the “Washington Football Team” for the past two seasons. The team plans to announce a new nickname early next year. However, professional sports teams such as the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball, the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League and the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL still retain Indian nicknames.
The “R-word,” the Washington team’s former nickname, has been banned by the state of California for use in public schools. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, launched in 2017, which includes “a ban on derogatory and discriminatory names or team names or mascots in public schools and a ban on using any derogatory term that distinguishes the Native American community “.
Colorado and Nevada state lawmakers voted last month to ban public schools from adopting Native American mascots, according to The Hill. Washington state adopted a similar measure earlier this year; Maine took the same step in 2019. Connecticut and Massachusetts are expected to consider similar initiatives this year.
The debate over these mascots is not new. Efforts to oppose Native American mascots date back to the 1960s. Stanford University became the “cardinal” in 1975, dropping the nickname Indians. And an investigation by the American Psychological Association in 2005 prompted the organization to call for the removal of these mascots and team themes, citing “the damaging effects of racial stereotypes and inaccurate racial representations, including particularly damaging effects. Native American sports mascots on the development of social identity and self-esteem of young American Indians.
Locally, Moore said she understands how important traditions are to community members. But she also recognized that it was time to make a change with the Hart High mascot.
“I understand traditions. I understand different perspectives on this issue around the mascot, ”Moore said. “It wasn’t right to leave it as it was when I know there are people in pain.”