Petition seeks to reverse Hart High mascot change 

The Hart High School mural that was commissioned after a 2021 decision to change the school's mascot. Photo courtesy of Jason d’Autremont.
The Hart High School mural that was commissioned after a 2021 decision to change the school's mascot. Photo courtesy of Jason d’Autremont.
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A petition circulating online is seeking to reverse the decision to change the mascot of Hart High School made by the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board nearly three years ago. 

The petition, started by Jennifer Saldivar on change.org, is asking for the “Indians” mascot to not be removed. The board voted 4-1 on July 14, 2021, to retire the mascot by June 30, 2025, citing a need to move away from a race-based symbol that the school has been associated with since Jan. 10, 1946. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the petition had been signed by nearly 1,500 people. A petition seeking a mascot change gained public traction in 2021 and had more than 18,000 signatures. 

Both Jennifer and George Saldivar, who have two children in the Hart district, spoke at Wednesday’s governing board meeting in support of the new petition. George’s argument was that the things that were promised to go along with changing the mascot — a mural at Hart High that depicts the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians and a cultural center — have not been delivered as promised. 

The mural, worked on by current Hart High students since March 2022, was unveiled at the school’s open house in March 2023. 

“If anyone has seen that mural, there is no depiction of the Tataviams or any native person, for that matter,” George said. 

George referenced a letter by Tom Henson, president of the Native American Guardian’s Association, which, according to George, states that many Native Americans find mascots referring to native people “respectful and honoring” while also keeping those people “visible in modern society.” 

“Unfortunately, this mural does the exact opposite,” George said. “It doesn’t show them; it actually erases them.” 

Jennifer referenced a survey from 2020 that showed 49% of students favored keeping the mascot while 26% favored a change and 25% had no preference. She referenced another survey that had 661 students voting to keep the mascot against 40 voting to change it and 340 having no preference. 

“The results of both of these surveys favor keeping the Indian name and continuation of supporting the mascot,” Jennifer said. 

Not on the board when the decision was made, Erin Wilson, who represents Trustee Area No. 4, said she would be interested to know just how many people feel the same way the Saldivars do, and why they did not speak up during the initial discussions. 

“It sounds like there’s a large population who felt like they were not part of that,” Wilson said. “So, I can’t really speak to that, but I’m wondering why they didn’t know.” 

Governing board President Linda Storli visited the mural on Thursday, joined by Hart Principal Jason D’Autremont and a member of the Tataviam tribe. She said in a phone interview on Monday that she didn’t see anything wrong with the mural and that the Tataviam member she was with felt the same. 

“It’s a beautiful mural,” Storli said. “It’s exactly what the Tataviam tribe wanted. It was planned with them and not only OK’d by them, but it was also, as the man explained to me, it was almost a joint project.” 

As for the cultural center, Storli said she was told that the center currently does not have a home at the Hart campus as of now due to some moving parts. 

“They’re thinking about redoing the library and they’re thinking about using different buildings for different things,” Storli said. “So right now, it was just an impractical time to do a cultural center.” 

Storli added that, personally, she is standing by the decision to change the mascot, but that the board could discuss the matter in the future. 

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