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HISD approves change to nickname and mascot policy

Good.

Three schools in the Houston Independent School District are likely to have new mascots that no longer reflect a connection to Native American culture or history after preliminary board approval Thursday night of a policy proposed by Superintendent Terry Grier.

A fourth school, Westbury High, could be required to no longer use Rebel, even though connections to the Confederacy were dropped more than two decades ago.

Trustees gave a tentative OK to do away with the Lamar High School Redskins, Hamilton Middle School Indians and Welch Middle School Warriors. After the meeting, Grier said teams that have generic nicknames such as Warriors could potentially keep the name if any affinity with Native Americans was dropped.

The new mascot policy was approved unanimously by the board after an at-times emotional session of public comment. The approval is tentative because it came after the measure’s first reading. To be implemented, it must be given a second reading and again receive a majority vote. Measures are rarely reversed if passed on the first reading.

About 20 speakers gave brief statements, roughly equally divided between those favoring and opposed to the proposed change. Most of those opposed to the mascot change had connections to Lamar High School.

“You should be spending your money, time and attention not on changing mascots but on educational matters,” said Joe Koch, a 1968 Lamar graduate. “These names were not meant to be offensive. They were meant as a rallying cry to bring students together.”

Several Native American speakers said the names and symbols could be seen as hurtful regardless of the intent of those who first adopted them or still use them.

“I am a human being — I am not a mascot,” said Steve Melendez, a Native American activist.

See here, here, and here for the background. I have no real sympathy for the argument that HISD is spending too much time on this, where “too much time” really means “any time at all”. The announcement that HISD was considering this matter came less than a week before the meeting where this vote was held. Even if you go all the way back to the Randy Harvey column that likely served as a catalyst for this, we’re talking a bit more than a month. There shouldn’t need to be any further action from Superintendent Grier or the Board of Trustees going forward – basically, this mandate affects at most three schools, and once they comply that’s pretty much it. Down the road, any new school built in HISD will also have to comply with this new regulation. It’s hardly a strain on anyone’s capabilities, and it was the right thing to do. In a year’s time no one will remember what the fuss was about.

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3 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    I guess this issue demonstrates why I am not a school superintendent, because I would have never guessed that the reason the HISD kids can’t read is because they have offensive mascots.

    http://www.houstonpress.com/2013-12-12/news/hisd-reading-problem/

    Now that this “problem” has been addressed, I’ll be expecting to see HISD literacy rates going through the roof.

  2. Ross says:

    The real problem with HISD reading progress is that the vast majority of parents don’t care, not that the teachers and administration aren’t doing their jobs. I would bet that most of the students with reading problems live in homes where books are not present, and that they spend most of their time watching TV or playing video games.

    Having said that, I doubt that the District spent much time at all on the mascot topic, since the number of affected schools is limited.

  3. Ron in Houston says:

    As a student of Texas history, if we are truly going to be honest about our past and try to purge racist name and images, we need to start with Mirabeau Lamar. At the risk of invoking Godwin’s rule, Lamar really was the Hitler of the Republic of Texas. He embarked on a genocidal war that nearly bankrupted the fledgling Republic. In subsequent negotiations with the Native Americans even Sam Houston referred to him by saying, “A bad chief took my place.”

    I didn’t go to Lamar but honestly I’d have a hard time being very proud of my namesake or that grotesque stereotypical mascot.

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