Board of Education approves mascot policy update

Mascots at affected schools will be respectfully retired, replaced during the 2014-2015 school year

On Thursday, the Houston Independent School District Board of Education voted 7-0 with one abstention and one member absent to approve the second reading of a policy update to prohibit the use of any race or ethnic group as a mascot or nickname.

This policy update affects four schools — Lamar High School Redskins, Westbury High School Rebels, Hamilton Middle School Indians and Welch Middle School Warriors.

During the 2014-2015 school year, each school will be required to select a new mascot and respectfully retire its existing mascot. HISD administration will work closely with the affected schools to help them retire their mascots with respect and dignity, taking into consideration the history and tradition surrounding them.

“We realize – especially after the December meeting – that this is an issue which brings out deep emotions on both sides,” said Chief School Support Officer Drew Houlihan. “While traditions are important, they do not trump kindness and respect. We owe that both to the students at these schools and to the community at large.”

The push to retire the mascots gained momentum in late 2013.  In an opinion piece published in the Houston Chronicle, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier applauded the efforts of Sen. Rodney Ellis and the Anti-Defamation League for championing the issue.

“HISD must retire, respectfully, school symbols that no longer reflect the values of who we are – proudly diverse, inclusive, forward-thinking and committed to instilling character and social awareness in our youngsters,” he wrote.

More recently, Carnegie Vanguard High School student Maya Fontenot and Lamar High School alum Kenyon Weaver voiced support for the change in a similar piece, which also ran in the Chronicle.

“Opening the door to dialogue and accepting the reality that sometimes actions are hurtful, even when entirely absent of malice, is an opportunity to authentically honor others,” they wrote.  “Let us recognize that school spirit is broad enough to encompass a new and inclusive mascot.”

Also on Thursday, HISD’s board welcomed the new District IX Trustee, Wanda Adams, who was sworn in during a special ceremony before the regular board meeting.

Adams, a product of HISD, earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Texas Southern University. She is a professor of political science at her alma mater, bringing to her classroom not only experience as an elected official but a long career in public service for organizations and agencies, including the Houston Housing Authority and the Mayor’s Assistance Office.

Trustees who won re-election last November also renewed their oaths of office.  They are Anna Eastman, District I; Michael Lunceford, District V; Greg Meyers, District VI; and Harvin Moore, District VII.

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Click here for photos of the swearing-in ceremony. To download a photo for editorial use, use password “media.”