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Grier editorializes for HISD policy change on school mascots and nicknames

Here’s HISD Superintendent Terry Grier’s op-ed in the Chron about the likely forthcoming change in HISD policy on school mascots and nicknames.

Terry Grier

Terry Grier

HISD must retire, respectfully, school symbols that no longer reflect the values of who we are – proudly diverse, inclusive, forward-thinking and committed to instilling character and social awareness in our youngsters.

The Lamar Redskins, Hamilton Indians, Welch Warriors and Westbury Rebels must become a part of HISD’s history.

Steps are being taken to craft a new district policy that will allow schools to acknowledge the important traditions of these symbols to each of their communities, but that will make sure new mascots are in place by the start of the 2014-15 school year. HISD is working with principals at these schools, and we are looking to the Board of Education to adopt an unequivocal new policy at its next meeting on Thursday.

We applaud state Sen. Rodney Ellis and the Anti-Defamation League for championing this issue. 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.

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Lamar, Westbury, Welch and Hamilton should be defined and measured by their notable student successes – not bogged down by questions about their school mascots.

Our goal in HISD is not to obliterate all vestiges of traditional figures that were once widely embraced. That is an important part of each school’s cultural and historic literacy. But 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.

See here and here for the background. I don’t have much to add to this, just that I agree with it and am glad to see it. To anyone who might be thinking that HISD has better things to do than to enact policies like this, I’ll just note that if they do wait around until they have no more pressing business as defined by some people to deal with, they might find that an awfully long time has passed and these embarrassing anachronisms are still on the books. Better to deal with it now – it’s not like it’s going to derail or needlessly delay any other business – and know that it’s one less injustice waiting around to be recognized for what it is.

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4 Comments

  1. Jaxon Heath says:

    How sad that we have become so politically correct that we allow others to define what we mean. Shame on you Mr. Grier for not having more of a backbone.

  2. 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”.

  3. Dr. C. Miki Henderson says:

    The people who oppose changing the names of these teams are usually members of the dominant race who don’t feel uncomfortable wearing the mascot logos or cheering the mascots themselves. If the teams had negative names offensive to their racial or ethnic group they would be offended and try to change the names. Have some empathy and try to see the perspective of others. Names like the Colonels and Rebels that reference the Confederacy are vividly racist and though I am white, I would NEVER feel comfortable cheering for them. Frankly, this change has been a long time coming and I hope HISD board members have the strength of character and conviction to follow through.

  4. Michael Runyon says:

    I seriously cannot understand why anyone would reference “tradition” as a reason to keep a racist name of a kids school. What are we teaching them by defending the practice? Just because something is a tradition doesn’t make it right. In some cultures it is tradition to circumsize girls, or put the elderly out under a tree to die alone, or marry off young children. Just because something is traditional does not mean you should never rethink why you are doing it or if you should discontinue the practice.

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