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Houston School Board Approves Ban on 'Culturally Insensitive' Mascots

The Houston Independent School District board of education gave final approval last week to a policy prohibiting the use of any race or ethnic group as a school's mascot or nickname.

Back in December, the board tentatively gave unanimous approval to the policy, which stated that mascots must "respect cultural differences, values, and attitudes." The final version, approved 7-0 on Thursday, Jan. 16 (with one abstention), removed "attitudes" from the equation.

The policy will go into effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year. Four schools in the district—Lamar High School (the Redskins), Westbury High School (the Rebels), Hamilton Middle School (the Indians), and Welch Middle School (the Warriors)—will be forced to change their mascots.

"HISD must retire, respectfully, school symbols that no longer reflect the values of who we are—inclusive, sensitive, forward-thinking and committed to instilling character and social awareness in our youngsters," said Houston Superintendent Terry Grier in a statement in December.

At the meeting, the policy drew divided reaction. Lamar High School student Bret Hightower lobbied for the school being allowed to maintain the name "Redskins," while Marah Melendez, an American Indian student, said that using such mascots "allow the opposing teams to dishonor me."

"By doing this, you make me a target for taunting," she said. "A school should be a place where you feel good about yourself. Please end these mascots."

Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis, who helped lead the charge to ban these mascots, issued the following statement after the meeting, per ABC13:

"While our public education system faces a number of challenges, I know that both the Board and the Superintendent are dedicated to taking those on, and I look forward to working with them. Tonight's vote is a small step toward making our education system a better place for all children by recognizing that our diversity is what makes us stronger as a community and stronger as a district."

In other mascot-related news: Earlier this month, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected an application to register a trademark that used the term "Redskins," citing media stories highlighting growing opposition to the name. 

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