Hart school board to hear presentation on mascot change 

Hart High School principal Jason d'Autremont announces the the change of the Hart High School mascot to the Hawks in the Hart High School auditorium in Newhall on Tuesday, 031924. Dan Watson/The Signal
Hart High School principal Jason d'Autremont announces the the change of the Hart High School mascot to the Hawks in the Hart High School auditorium in Newhall on Tuesday, 031924. Dan Watson/The Signal
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It was only last week when Hart High School’s new mascot, the “Hawk,” was unveiled by Principal Jason d’Autremont during the school’s open house. 

That mascot is set to go into effect at the beginning of the next school year. 

Now, the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board is set at its next meeting on April 17 to hear a presentation from d’Autremont on the timeline of the “Indians” mascot being phased out and the “Hawks” mascot being introduced, according to an email sent from Superintendent Mike Kuhlman to local activist Steve Petzold. 

Petzold and several others have been demanding that the board revisit its 2021 decision to eliminate the “Indians” mascot for the school. 

“The board President (Linda Storli) plans to place an item on the April 17 agenda for Principal d’Autremont to review the mascot question, including the process of the phasing out of the ‘Indians’ mascot and the introduction of the ‘Hawk,’” Kuhlman wrote. “The governing board will have the opportunity to ask questions following the presentation.” 

According to California Education Code 35145.5, members of the public are “able to place matters directly related to school district business on the agenda of school district governing board meetings.” 

Kuhlman noted in his email that action is not required on the item, with the code only requiring that the item be placed on the agenda. 

The board voted in June 2021 to retire the “Indians” mascot no later than 2025, citing a need to move away from a race-based symbol that the school has been associated with since Jan. 10, 1946. 

Since then, Hart students and staff, as well as community members, submitted nominations, leading to a vote earlier this year between “Bison” and “Hawks.” According to d’Autremont, “Hawks” won with 833 of the 1,106 votes cast by current Hart students and staff. 

The process was later scrutinized by Petzold, who objected that nominations for “Indians” or “no change,” as well as “Warriors” were not part of the tallying process. 

In an email to a community member, d’Autremont said that those nominations were not accepted due to the governing board’s decision to make a change, and the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians told the district that its members felt that “Warriors” would not be appropriate as well. 

At the board meeting prior to the unveiling of the newly chosen mascot, board member Joe Messina had called for a future meeting to include a renewed discussion of the mascot.  

In a phone interview on Thursday, Petzold said he is glad that he and others calling for a discussion to take place are finally having their wishes respected. 

“It’s important that we hear from the principal what exactly the process was,” Petzold said. 

He added that he is not advocating for imagery of Native Americans to be used, only that “Indians” and the history of William S. Hart’s association with the natives of the Santa Clarita Valley not be erased. 

According to an April 14, 2021, Signal story, approximately 61 Hart staff members voted to keep the “Indians” mascot out of 180 who voted in a survey, while 661 Hart students of the 1,343 who were surveyed voted to keep it as well. Hart’s enrollment at the time was approximately 2,100 students, with 340 of those students surveyed saying they had no preference.    

All four grade levels had more votes to keep the mascot over those who wanted a change.  

As part of the mascot change, the board agreed to have a mural commissioned that would honor Native Americans, though the mural that was unveiled at Hart’s open house last year is not what opponents of the mascot change felt it should represent. The mural depicts a nature scene with a hawk, a bear, some trees, mountains, flowers and a river.  

A cultural center was also meant to be constructed, though that has not happened yet. 

At last week’s unveiling, d’Autremont said the official logo, for now, will remain an “H” with a feather attached. An imagery vote is scheduled to take place from April 22-26 to see what other logos or artwork could be adopted. 

The “Indians” mascot is set to be given a final send-off on May 3, according to d’Autremont, which will also serve as a recognition for the final class of seniors who will graduate as Hart Indians. 

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