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HISD to take action on “Redskins” nickname

Good for them.

Houston school district officials, plunging into a national controversy, are considering a policy change that would ban mascot names that might play on racial, ethnic or cultural stereotypes.

Houston Independent School District Superintendent Terry Grier is expected to propose a new policy that would require changing the mascots of the Lamar High School Redskins, Hamilton Middle School Indians, Welch Middle School Warriors and Westbury High School Rebels.

Specifically, the proposal would prohibit the use of “any race or ethnic group” as a mascot, nickname or descriptor of any Houston school. Officials said the mascots of Lamar, Hamilton, Welch and Westbury would fall outside the policy.

The issue is scheduled for discussion Monday at a school board review meeting. The board could vote on the change at its regular meeting on Thursday. The new mascots would be in place for the 2014-15 school year, and initial discussions of the transition have begun.

[...]

“The time has come for the Houston Independent School District – the most vibrantly diverse school district in the nation – to acknowledge that some decisions made generations ago need to be reconsidered,” [Superintendent Terry] Grier wrote. “Traditions are important. But respect for cultural difference and sensitivities matters more.”

Anna Eastman, the school board president, said the board does not intend to dictate mascot names, but to set guidelines.

The new policy would bar names with inappropriate connotations, Eastman said, adding that it is up to school district administrators to determine which mascots need replacing. Local groups at the schools will then select new mascots where needed.

Eastman said she expects some public comment on the policy change.

“I wouldn’t be surprised. I know that people feel strongly about mascots and school colors,” she said. “I wish we would see the same level of passion to the fact that we have kids who can’t read.”

Good to hear, and I couldn’t agree more with Anna Eastman. Honestly, if anyone gets more than a little upset about this, they need to rethink their priorities.

As the story notes, earlier this week Sen. Rodney Ellis wrote an open letter to Grier asking for something to be done.

On Tuesday, State Senator Rodney Ellis tweeted out a letter he sent to HISD Superintendent, Dr. Terry Grier (view the tweet here). In the letter, Ellis requested the district start a process to change Lamar’s mascot (Redskins) and any other derogatory mascots in HISD.

“I recently met with local Native American leaders, all of whom expressed sincere concern about the use of Lamar’s inflammatory manscot name,” the letter reads.

In an October column by Randy Harvey (click here for the column), Lamar school officials acknowledged the nickname was wrong by disassociating the school from virtually everything about it except the nickname itself.

The actual mascot was eliminated. Any new teams, groups or awards are known simply as Lamar. Drill team members are called Rangerettes.

“I know that the leadership of HISD and Lamar High School do not intend to offend anyone with the mascot’s name, but, simply put, times change,” the letter reads.

As noted, you can see his letter, which is quite congenial, here. I of course agree with him, as does the Chron editorial board, and I applaud him for taking this step. I don’t know if this had a direct effect on the subsequent actions by Grier and the board or not, but either way it’s encouraging.

By the way, I saw this in the Chron’s Sports Update blog, which was their Rice Owls blog when I first subscribed to it. Somewhere along the line, the blog morphed into a catchall sports section news blog, and the feed was redirected. I personally think this story belongs in their Metro section, or at least in the Houston Politics blog, but at least it was somewhere. I’m glad for that little bit of serendipity that allowed me to see it, since I would not have subscribed to that feed on my own.

One last thing from yesterday’s story:

“I’m not sure a change is really necessary,” said Frank Staats, a 1975 Westbury graduate and vice president of the school’s alumni association.

Images of the school’s Rebel mascot have been changed to make any connection to the Civil War barely noticeable, Staats said.

[...]

At Lamar, which his daughter attends, Staats said he understands the name is a greater concern. However, “it doesn’t bother the kids, from what I know,” he said.

Staats said in 20 years of alumni participation, he’s never heard a complaint about the Westbury Rebel name from students or alumni.

I suspect that’s because most people don’t really think much about it. If that is the case, then hopefully people will be equally indifferent about the proposed changes.

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7 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Funny, I don’t recall native American groups being so incensed that they have been protesting the school for years, demanding action. I don’t remember any of that, probably, because they didn’t. This push to change the school mascots is, in no particular order, revisionist history, creating a problem where one was previously not, an opportunity for certain pols to get their name in the paper, and an opportunity for PC folks to have another “white guilt” moment.

    How much time is being wasted on this nonsense? What work is not getting done, and what issues are on the back burner while this faux crisis is being crafted? How much is this eventually going to cost the taxpayers? How much money will the kids NOT have available for actual learning because money was spent to change their mascot(s).

    Some people need to grow a pair, while others need to develop a skill set beyond being easily offended, professional victims.

    HISD has trouble getting kids to graduate, but THIS is the problem we need to focus on? Really? Really?

  2. […] here and here for the background. I don’t have much to add to this, just that I agree with it and […]

  3. John "Redskin" Hamilton says:

    I oppose the HISD’s proposed policy to change the Lamar High School mascot from Redskins to any other name. Three reasons for maintaining the Redskins as the mascot are as follows.

    1. Tradition – many thousands of loyal Lamar Alumni have proudly supported and cheered our Redskins with pride, honor, commitment, and passion since the student body picked the mascot in 1937. The Redskins mascot name is part of the mind, body and souls of students past and present. The Redskins are an integral part of the school, and along with the school paper “The Lancer” and the school yearbook “Orenda” meaning (The Great Spirit), comprise a trilogy that is woven into a fabric like a quilt (or should I say Indian blanket) that embodies the trials, tribulations, and ideals of native American Indians.

    2. Accomplishment – the mascot name of Redskins has never been identified as having a negative impact upon the students of Lamar High School either socially, culturally, or academically. The many accolades and accomplishments of Lamar students are well documented in the pages of the years of Orenda publications. The Lamar High School Alumni Association has documented many fine and outstanding academic achievements by the school. In 2011 the school “achieved Recognized Status from the TEA – the only comprehensive high school in the HISD to do so – and is only a few students short of Exemplary Status”.

    3. Historical Perspective – Mirabeau B. Lamar replaced Sam Houston as president in 1838. Lamar urged that the Cherokee and Comanche tribes be driven from their lands in Texas, even if the tribes must be destroyed. In 1839 his troops drove the Cherokee tribes from Texas. A similar campaign against the Comanches failed and they could not be forced from the area. It is rather ironic that a High School bearing his name should have a mascot named Redskins, after all that he did and attempted to do to expel the Indian tribes. An even greater irony would be that those very Indians, Warriors and Redskins that could not be expelled or exterminated by Lamar, with the sword, could now be done away with by the stroke of a pen, by the HISD, in the name of political correctness.

    I urge you to stop this madness, and to vacate any proposals or ideas to force schools to abandon their Traditional mascot names. Students love their schools and are proud of their traditions. Students past and present identify with their mascots in an affectionate and positive way, regardless of the political correctness and fashions “de jour”.

  4. Mike says:

    Are Native Americans offended by the term Redskins?

    I have never heard anyone protest Lamar’s name before, and I have always thought Redskin was a term that did more to honor Indians / Native Americans (though perhaps that is not historically accurate). I say leave the name alone. I mean what is next does Notre Dame have to change their name from Fighting Irish because that portrays Irish people in a negative light? Don’t people have better things to do with their time than worry about this?

    Again if Native Americans / Irish people are legitimately offended by these names then let’s hear them out, but Terry Grier should not have any say in this. This all seems like a manufactured issue to me.

  5. Michael Runyon says:

    Considering that Grier is the superintendent he should have every right to have a say in this. By the way, yes Native Americans are offended. While they may not have protested at this particular school, they have engaged in national protests of NFL and MLB teams with resist names.

  6. Chris says:

    Lets just change it all, start destroying everything in the name of non offensive political correctness. Hawaii need to change their mascot name as well, RAINBOW WARRIORS, I wouldn’t want Gays or Lesbians to be offended, Im sure they are so I will pick up the sword and fight for them, even though I am not one of them and they did not ask me to help out.
    I just feel it is my duty as a liberal to assist in this matter and step all over everyone else because I feel they are insulted by the name. Warrior that could be offensive to Native Americans as well. I would ask my grand mother Choctaw Nation but she has long since passed. HUGE REDSKINS FAN by the way her favorite game was against the Cowboys.
    What is next? Gotta change the animal team mascot names Peta is upset.
    Get over it you twits. Grow up, lets teach the public school students how to read, think as an individual to be successful and have a desire to become something. How much time is spent on teaching them only to pass a Star Test for funding, buying them laptops to come back to school and get the numbers up for funding? Pimping them out for fundraisers that do not go towards the funds specified but into a slush fund for teacher breakfast gatherings and luncheons.
    Change the names, what a joke, change the leaders.

  7. […] here, here, and here for the background. I have no real sympathy for the argument that HISD is spending too […]

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