Hart High School officials held an online forum Monday night, inviting members of the community to contribute their opinions on whether to change the Indian mascot.
Moderated by Hart High Principal Jason d’Autremont, the meeting began with a summarized history of the issue, starting with the adoption of the mascot in the 1940s to the recent efforts to lead discussion and learn more about the issue. The meeting then provided an opportunity for participants from both sides to share their perspectives.
Starting first, the members of the public in support of changing the mascot, whose ages ranged from older alumni to current students, discussed how the mascot was racially insensitive and had the ability to be mentally and educationally damaging to students and local Native American tribe members.
“We continue to normalize abuse because it’s 2021,” said a member of the public who self- identified herself as a Native American and someone with four sons going to school in Santa Clarita. “We know the history of Native Americans in this country, and we know the history of Native Americans in general. … I just think it’s the responsibility of educators to make sure that everyone is educated on Native Americans and not normalize abuse, not normalize forums to discuss normalizing abuse.”
A man who identified himself as a Hart alum with Mexican-American and Native American heritage drew a comparison between the United States military naming their helicopters after Native American culture, and asked why the school can’t do the same.
“I ask Hart High to keep the name and mascot of Indians. I don’t know why these whiny, racist, PC, cancel culturalists want to take our strong and positive Native American symbols,” said the alumnus. “They are fighting imaginary racism and discrimination with actual racism, discrimination.”
A student who spoke said changing the mascot is just the right thing to do.
“You guys, as a school board, have an obligation to every single one of your students to create an inclusive learning environment for them; to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to receive a good education and not have to worry about these racial issues at their school,” said one current student who spoke during the forum. “This isn’t about being politically correct. This is about being morally correct, and there’s no way, in good conscience, that we could keep a mascot that hurts the mental health of our students.”
Another alumnus, who identified himself as an “older” Hart graduate, expressed his desire to see the mascot changed, and criticized a recent poll taken among staff and students regarding the question. He said having a minority of students and staff voting who say the racially based mascot should change should be enough of an argument.
Another current student, who self-identified as a Native American, said she arrived on campus willing to listen and understand both sides of the argument.
“I do think that both sides have a valid argument,” said the student. “But I don’t think that we are trying to erase history. I just think that we are ready to move on from what this mascot can represent for our students.”
Since the beginning of this year, the William S. Hart Union High School District board has been asking questions to those whom they consider knowledgeable, close to and passionate about the mascot issue, but board members have yet to render a final verdict on the issue.
No decision was made as a result of the forum, but board President Cherise Moore said she had taken notes during the meeting. The minutes and video will be provided to board members. Further opportunities for people to provide their comments or ideas will be available, either through communicating with the board directly or making a public comment during one of their meetings. To submit written questions specific to the issue, the board has set up a site at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe2jfuPzm1ERtMaioBTCZ_CLbwIaJP03Nscasbk5HicumI9_Q/viewform.