HISD board votes to change four schools' mascots perceived as insensitive

HISD trustees approved the changes after hearing complaints that the use of those long-time mascots and cultural references are derogatory
January 16, 2014 8:28:12 PM PST
HISD officials have voted to ban several school mascots because some believe they're offensive. That decision will directly impact four different schools.

The Houston Independent School District Board of Education voted 7-0 with one abstention.

"We realize ? especially after the December meeting ? that this is an issue which brings out deep emotions on both sides," Chief School Support Officer Drew Houlihan said in a prepared statements. "While traditions are important, they do not trump kindness and respect. We owe that both to the students at these schools and to the community at large."

For several weeks now, the HISD Board of Trustees has been considering the controversial ban on the use of offensive Indian mascots. The updated policy changes officially puts an end to the use of popular nicknames, cultural images and references being used at several campuses, including:

  • Lamar Redskins
  • Welch Middle School Warriors
  • Hamilton Middle School Indians
  • And Westbury High School Rebels
This ban comes after some members of the community complained to lawmakers and activists groups, saying the use of those long-time mascots and cultural references are derogatory and inflammatory.

Board members heard from critics on both sides of the issue before voting Thursday night.

"If HISD would teach the truth about Texas history, then maybe we would not have people coming to this microphone trying to convince me that dehumanizing me to the lowly status of a mascot is somehow an honor," Steve Melendez with the American Indian Genocide Museum said during the school board meeting.

"The University of Pennsylvania found that 90 percent-plus of the Indians did not take offense to the term 'redskins,'" one person said at the meeting.

Shortly after the vote, Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis issued the following statement:

"I want to thank the HISD Board and Superintendent Grier for taking on this issue and passing the new mascot naming policy," said Senator Ellis. "Dr. Martin Luther King, whose life we'll celebrate next week, said that 'the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.' It does not bend on its own, though, and that occasionally requires reexamining words that were once considered acceptable in popular culture.

"While our public education system faces a number of challenges, I know that both the Board and the Superintendent are dedicated to taking those on, and I look forward to working with them. Tonight's vote is a small step toward making our education system a better place for all children by recognizing that our diversity is what makes us stronger as a community and stronger as a district."

The district now will work with campuses on a plan to phase out the mascots at the center of this controversy and adopt new ones by next school year.

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