William S. Hart Union High School District officials on Wednesday announced plans to hold study sessions and community conversations on whether to change the William S. Hart High School mascot.
Since the 1940s, Hart High School has had an “Indian” as its mascot. The mascot has garnered criticism as being insensitive to Native American culture.
Staunch supporters of the mascot have voiced their objections to any change to the mascot, saying Hart, as the oldest high school in the district, is steeped in tradition, which includes the Indian mascot.
“Because we have actually talked with some folks for whom this is a very important issue, we believe that the time has come for students, staff and families to come together to thoughtfully and respectfully examine this question as a community,” Superintendent Mike Kuhlman said during the Wednesday night governing board meeting.
In a letter distributed to school families Wednesday, Hart High Principal Jason d’Autremont wanted to give parents — who voiced concerns over the summer in light of local Black Lives Matter protests — a chance to discuss any issue with the mascot.
“This is not the first time this concern has been raised in the long history of our high school,” d’Autremont wrote in the letter. ”As you are likely aware, this recent concern coincides with a national conversation about race-based mascots that has resulted in (among other things) several high-profile professional sports franchises acting to eliminate mascots that reference Native Americans.”
The district reportedly reached out to the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians — the group that is historically indigenous to the Santa Clarita Valley — and a number of concerned students and community members to better understand their concerns about the mascot.
The district is organizing an initial study session with the governing board at 8 a.m. Feb. 9, available for public viewing on a live stream through YouTube. District officials are planning to post a link to the meeting on the district’s website when it’s available and have said there will be subsequent meetings to follow.
District officials said no decision will be made at the upcoming meeting, but the discussion “will enable the governing board to learn about the history of the Hart High School mascot and to understand the issues that are being raised,” d’Autremont said in the letter.
“Be assured that there will be additional opportunities for community input and participation in the weeks and months to come,” d’Autremont wrote in his letter. “I encourage you to listen in if you can.”