TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Some call the mascots insensitive.
Others say it doesn’t offend them at all.
A heated debate is currently taking place within the Hillsborough County school system, sparking spirited conversation and opinions regarding mascots.
It leads to one big question.
What’s acceptable and what’s not in the world of school mascots?
According to the Hillsborough school district, mascots like indians, chiefs, warriors and braves have got to go.
In fact, school leaders tell WFLA, those mascots will be removed from six Bay Area campuses within the next two weeks, citing a change in culture.
A district spokesperson says images of indians are considered insensitive to the Native American community, and parents within that community, school leaders maintain, have shared their concerns over the years.
So, new mascots will now be chosen, instead of continuing to use Native American mascots.
“It can be offensive to use these mascots,” said Hillsborough County Schools spokesperson Tanya Arja. “So, when you’re using them like a caricature or a cartoonish figure, that is very offensive and not respectful,”
Arja added that the changes would ensure all schools “are welcoming.”
The schools choosing new mascots are Adams Middle School, Brooker Elementary School, Forest Hills Elementary, Ruskin Elementary, Summerfield Elementary and Thonotosassa Elementary.
District leaders have been working with a parent advisory group representing the Native American community and committed to choosing new mascots. These are the current mascots:
- Adams Middle School – Warriors
- Brooker Elementary School – Braves
- Forest Hills Elementary – Braves
- Ruskin Elementary – Braves
- Summerfield Elementary – Indians
- Thonotosassa Elementary – Chiefs
“The current mascots do not respect every culture and every person in our communities. Using Native American images and mascots can easily reduce living human beings to the level of a cartoon, caricature or stereotype,” the district said in a statement. “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.”
One mom who has a son at Chamberlain High School says she’s not a fan of the changes taking place.
“America is great,” Vanessa Binion told WFLA. “There’s room for everyone. We’re growing and we’re growing from everywhere. Florida is the place to be. So, I say, let diversity stay.”
Students, staff and family members will suggest new mascots over the next few days. The district will then gather the finalists and send a ballot home so each student and staff member can vote for their favorite choice.
While six schools are changing, the district says Chamberlain High School will stay as the Mighty Chiefs and East Bay High will keep its Indian mascot. A spokeswoman says the schools have made substantial changes to the way the mascots are depicted and used.
“For the past two years, students and staff have worked with the parent advisory committee to review every element of how they portray Native American cultures,” the district statement says. “Both schools have made significant changes to images, clothing, traditions and more through this partnership.”
According to the spokeswoman, the district believes students at the high school level are “better prepared to understand the differences and sensitivities around cultures.”