William S. Hart Union High School District governing board members Wednesday decided to make a decision on the fate of the Hart High Indian mascot during their July 14 meeting.
While board member Joe Messina seemed to express hesitation at moving to vote before the fall, Linda Storli, James Webb, Bob Jensen and Cherise Moore showed support for moving forward with the summer vote in order to start the school year off fresh and address the issue for those affected.
Other solutions, including additions to the Hart curriculum, if possible, will also be discussed by board members between now and July 14.
No vote on whether to actually change the mascot was taken Wednesday night, as district administrators had emphasized before the meeting that the purpose of the special item was only to discuss the future steps for deciding on the controversy.
Moore, the board president, made a tearful speech, saying she was an advocate for those who feel like they don’t have a voice. She said a recent survey of students, while the majority who responded were in support of keeping the mascot, showed there’s at least a group of students who feel excluded and marginalized.
“I know that change is hard, but we all know that it’s the only constant,” said Moore. “I know it’s not easy to think about change, because change for many means death — change is grief.
“But I believe in our future, I know each of you do, too,” she added.
“Our first nation peoples, the indigenous people, say that this is hurting them,” said Gloria Locke, another speaker during the meeting, in opposition to keeping the mascot. “They say it’s derogatory to their culture and perpetuates ill perceptions. I can only have empathy for them … and I know that it is hurting a whole culture.”
Locke was not alone in her opposition. Multiple speakers, which included self-identifying Native American parents and students, came to the podium and expressed their personal frustration at the race-based logo they called offensive to students of Native American heritage.
Julia Estrada, one of the former Hart students asking for a change, asked the board to not leave the decision to the campus ASB because “there has been little to no education” given to students on the issue.
Many others in opposition cited past speakers, such as Rudy Ortega, the tribal president of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, who called it a misrepresentation of Native Americans and detrimental to the effort by local tribes to reclaim their traditions through educating younger generations.
Elizabeth McAnnally, one of the speakers in support of keeping the mascot, said she did not find the mascot offensive, despite her being sensitive to issues on race as the child of immigrants and being self-identified as indigenous.
McAnnally called for a survey of all “federally recognized” local tribes to “leave no doubt that there is not (a) hidden agenda” behind the desire to change the mascot.
Steve Baron, a Newhall resident, said he was the father of two Hart graduates, and criticized the board for what he saw as a lack of research and hard data on whether there are long-term negative effects of the race-based mascot.
“You feel the logo, Indians, is somehow discriminatory and derogative when you have no objective data to prove your opposition,” said Baron. “You feel that way.”