Oklahoma City School Board Votes to Drop High School's 'Redskins' Mascot
The Oklahoma City School Board voted unanimously Monday to drop the "Redskins" mascot from Capitol Hill High School effective immediately, drawing a mixed reaction from community members.
Capitol Hill had the mascot for 88 years, according to Tim Willert of NewsOK.com, but students, teachers, and other school administrators attended the board's meeting Monday night to speak out against its continued existence.
Four Native American students & teacher tell school board they are against Capitol Hill mascot of Redskins. 4% of students are NA #oklaed— Ben Felder (@benfelder_okg) December 9, 2014
Teacher is reading board's non-discrimination policy to argue for removal of Redskins mascot at Capitol Hill HS. #oklaed— Ben Felder (@benfelder_okg) December 9, 2014
We are hearing from the American Indian Organization students and leader speaking against the use of "Redskins" as Capitol Hill HS mascot— Teach For America OK (@TFAOklahoma) December 9, 2014
Following the board's vote, Tierney Tinnin, the district's spokesperson, released the following statement (via KFOR.com):
Oklahoma City Public Schools respects and honors the Native American community and students in our district, state, and nation. The administration will immediately begin eliminating the use of the Redskins mascot and will create a committee of students, alumni and community members to identify a new mascot for Capitol Hill High School before the end of the spring semester.
According to Ben Felder of the Oklahoma Gazette, the Oklahoma City school district's student population is 4 percent Native American. At the school itself, approximately 2 percent of the student population is Native American, per Reuters' Heide Brandes.
"What this board said tonight is that we're really seriously committed to serving all students through the equity lens," said Superintendent Rob Neu following the vote, according to Willert.
As Justin Dougherty of News9.com found, not everyone affiliated with the school was in support of the decision, despite the board's unanimous vote.
"I'm very proud to be a Redskin," Capitol Hill senior Arnold Hernandez told him. "Once a Redskin, always a Redskin."
Per Dougherty, some alumni "plan to organize a group in hopes to overturn the board's decision."
The "Redskins" mascot issue has proven divisive at many schools across the nation in recent years. Student-newspaper staffers at Neshaminy (Pa.) High School have been locked in a yearlong battle with school administrators over the use of the name, while the Houston Independent School District board of education gave final approval earlier this year to a policy prohibiting the use of any race or ethnic group as a school's mascot or nickname. The policy, which went into effect at the beginning of the 2014-15 school year, forced Lamar High School to abandon its "Redskins" mascot, along with Westbury High School (the Rebels), Hamilton Middle School (the Indians), and Welch Middle School (the Warriors).
As the Oklahoma City board's decision suggests, the conflict over using racially-tinged mascots isn't going away any time soon for districts across the country.
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