The Hillsborough County School Board met on Tuesday to reconsider the removal of Native American mascots from half a dozen schools. But instead of stopping the process, they are only going to slow it down a little.
In May, the district announced findings from its work with a parent advisory committee representing Native Americans. They decided to remove mascots and names like Braves, Indians, or Warriors from five elementary schools and one middle school.
The advisory group said it believes that the nicknames and mascots the schools use do not correctly represent Native Americans and they said they want to boost understanding of native history and culture.
However, the proposed changes caused an uproar. Students at Brooker Elementary School presented the school board with over 600 signatures on a “Save the Braves” petition against the change of their mascot.
Last week, the board voted unanimously to have Superintendent Jeff Eakins pause the process of removing the mascots.
Tuesday, the board met again in Temple Terrace City Hall to discuss the issue.
First they heard from over a dozen angry residents in favor of changing the mascots.
“I’m indigenous, for anyone to put my nation, our ethnicity, our race as a mascot, we’re in the 21st century, what are you doing? It’s sad,” said Stuart Flores, who was one of many wearing a shirt with the phrase “Not a Mascot.”
After hearing from the community, the board members shared their opinions, but did not vote because the schools have already picked replacement mascots.
Eakins also responded, saying he will talk to each principal and help them work out, with their communities, how and when the schools should remove the mascots.
“I clearly think, as we looked at this, for our principals who understand their communities very well, they were very clearly convicted about their decisions.”
Even with some of the backlash from the decisions, Eakins said this is a great learning opportunity for students and the community.
“I know with regards to Brooker, the parent advisory board has already talked about not removing murals and things that represent Native American culture, use those as opportunities to talk about the history of the school,” he said, adding that he plans to help create individual plans for each of the six schools.
“I certainly would go back to each of those principals right now, because I think the right thing to do is moving forward with the change of the mascot.”