William S. Hart Union High School District governing board members are slated to vote on whether to keep or remove the Hart High School Indian mascot during their Wednesday night board meeting.
The agenda item titled “Hart High School Mascot” comes after a series of board and community meetings this past year surrounding the race-based mascot and whether it should be retired.
“Should the board vote to retire the Indian mascot, the board will provide direction to staff on next steps including the establishment of a timeline for a change and the process for selecting alternatives,” reads the district’s regular meeting agenda.
On Monday, Hart Principal Jason d’Autremont said he and his staff would be following the board’s direction on the issue.
“The Associated Student Body and staff will do what it takes to continue to make our high school a great place to learn,” d’Autremont said.
In April, district staff posted a collection of recent information regarding the conversation around their school’s mascot, from a timeline of events, to links of specific board meetings, to the written responses from the participants at the April 26 community forum on the topic. The information compiled can be found at https://bit.ly/3AXV31u.
Those wishing to participate in and/or watch the meeting will be allowed to either attend in person or watch via the district’s livestream. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. at the district office, 21380 Centre Pointe Parkway. The livestream will be available at https://youtu.be/O8B-x9yAKaQ.
The Indian mascot has been in place since the 1940s, but has come under increased criticism in the past few decades. While those who wish to keep the mascot have said taking it away from the school is erasing history, proponents of removal have argued that the race-based mascot is a disrespectful misrepresentation for local Native American students and tribe members.
Board President Cherise Moore could not be reached for comment Monday, but in previous meetings and district communications with families, district officials have said the ultimate decision on the fate of the mascot would be made only after they had considered this issue thoughtfully and respectfully.
The most recent surge of interest in the Hart mascot followed last summer’s protests across the country, including here in the Santa Clarita Valley and involving some local Hart district students, in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
A petition started last year titled “Retire Hart High’s ‘Indian’ Mascot” has, as of Monday afternoon, garnered approximately 20,000 signatures, and multiple meetings since February of this year have included proponents on both sides of the issue vocalizing their viewpoints.
During the Feb. 17 meeting, board members heard from Rudy Ortega, the president of the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, who said the representation made by the mascot is disingenuous and that his organization supports the retiring of race-based mascots.
Reported to the board in April, a survey given to Hart High students showed that of the 1,343 students who responded to the prompt, 49.2% were in favor of keeping the mascot, 25.4% were in favor of changing and 25.3% had no preference. Of the 123 staff members who responded to the survey, 49.5% voted to keep the mascot, 38.2% voted to change and 12.1% had no preference.
The board then voted in May to bring forward a vote on the issue during its July 14 meeting.