Students and community members in Tampa, Florida, are unhappy after school officials look to change school mascots in the district over concerns that the current choices are insensitive to Native American cultures.
Hillsborough County Public Schools first made the decision to change the mascots on May 13. The move would impact six campuses in the district: Adams Middle School, Brooker Elementary School, Forest Hills Elementary, Ruskin Elementary, Summerfield Elementary and Thonotosassa Elementary.
Among the mascots currently under scrutiny at those schools are the warriors, the braves, the Indians and the chiefs.
But since the announcement, parents and students have pushed back against the changes and asked them to reconsider.
Maggie Ramos, a fourth-grade student at Brooker Elementary School, was disappointed to learn about the school district’s decision, Tampa news station WFLA reported. She launched a campaign called Save the Braves, which seeks to keep the nearly 60-year-old Brooker Braves mascot in place. To date, her petition has received over 800 signatures, and she is hoping to achieve 100,000.
"I'm standing up for what I believe in. I feel like that defines what a Brave is,” Ramos told WFLA. “Everyone is mostly in support of keeping our mascot because everyone is familiar with it.”
Many added messages of support on Ramos’ petition.
“Instead of changing the names of the Braves, Chiefs, Warriors, etc, teach the children the true meaning of the words and the symbols. All were strong "Brave" and earned their way to being a Chief. We show True Strength, Courage in the face of danger and fear! We, the graduates and alumni of all these schools are proud to be who we are,” commented one person.
“I am of Native American heritage. Having a school's mascot that represents this culture is honoring,” another added.
“Choosing a name as a mascot is an HONOR, not a degradation. Political correctness run amok!” one person wrote.
Hillsborough County School Board member Melissa Snively voiced her displeasure on Ramos’ campaign page that the district made a decision without feedback from the board or individual schools in question.
“This was NOT brought to the school board for a discussion and vote. Rather, this was an administrative decision that was made by the Superintendent and his staff, without input from the communities surrounding the schools affected or input from board members,” Snively wrote on May 14. “I am extremely outraged and disappointed in how this decision was made, especially with the lack of transparency and conversation.”
According to a statement provided to Yahoo Lifestyle, Hillsborough County Public Schools believes that the current mascots simply aren’t respectful of all cultures and people.
“Using Native American images and mascots can easily reduce living human beings to the level of a cartoon, caricature or stereotype,” the statement says. “Even when there is no bad intent, these images can carry on and spread some of the symbols of the most painful parts of our great country’s history.”
Despite changes to six schools’ mascots, the district is choosing to edit the mascots for two district high schools to improve the way they portray Native Americans instead of coming up with new ones.
“We believe students at the high school level are better prepared to understand the differences and sensitivities around cultures,” the statement reads. “These cultural details are now part of the learning for students and is the legacy these students are leaving for future students.”
According to Hillsborough County Public Schools spokesperson Tanya Arja, there is a board meeting on Tuesday, during which board members want to discuss the issue.
Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Melissa Snively did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
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