Education

Houston Bans Some Mascots in Public Schools

January 17, 2014
 

By Ericka Mellon

Four Houston Independent School District campuses will have to adopt new mascots after the school board gave final approval Thursday to a policy banning certain nicknames such as the Redskins.

The proposal from Superintendent Terry Grier drew some debate among students, alumni and community members, but the change puts the school district in line with others nationwide that have retired mascots tied to Native Americans.

Specifically, the new Houston Independent School District policy bans nicknames deemed offensive or culturally insensitive. District leaders said the affected mascots are the Lamar High Redskins, the Westbury High Rebels, the Hamilton Middle School Indians and the Welch Middle School Warriors.

The school principals will have the next several months to work with the community to adopt new mascots, said HISD spokeswoman Tiffany Davila-Dunne. The school board will not have to sign off on the new names.

Grier oversaw the changing of some mascots in his former district in North Carolina, and proposed the policy in Houston with urging from state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston.

"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," Grier wrote in an opinion piece in December.

"Traditions are important. But respect for cultural difference and sensitivities matters more."

HISD trustees gave tentative approval to the new policy in December and voted 7-0, with one abstention, to finalize the change Thursday. Newly elected trustee Wanda Adams abstained.

Speakers addressing the school board were divided on the issue. Bret Hightower, a senior at Lamar High School, said the Redskins name should stick.

"At one point it was used as a racial slur," he said. "Let us rewrite history and make it a positive connotation."

Marah Melendez, 14, disagreed.

"A school should be a place where you feel good about yourself. Please end these mascots."

(c)2014 the Houston Chronicle

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