TAMPA, Fla. — The issue of changing school mascots derived from Native American likenesses created some pushback and controversy at Tuesday's Hillsborough County School Board meeting.
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The board asked for a discussion on a decision to change the mascots at several elementary and middle schools.
In May, the district announced the changes following meetings between principals, a Native American parent advisory group, faculty members and district administrators.
But school board members said they never voted on the changes and were left out of the process.
"There's definitely a break down in communication," said school board member Melissa Snively.
It was explained that in the past the school board has not been involved with mascot changes and it's not a policy decision.
Public comment reveals strong opinions
During the public comments segment of the meeting, dozens of people spoke to express their opinions on the issue.
People who support the move away from Native American mascots call them "insulting."
"Honoring is respecting, and this feels more like superiority and afflicting dominance on another culture," said one woman who spoke.
Others said removing the mascots will erase school history.
"I do not believe there is a trademark on history. I do not think that it can be owned," said Jessica Ramos, whose children gathered signatures on a petition trying to stop the changes.
Superintendent Jeff Eakins said he will go back and talk to the principals at the schools involved.
He said he still supports changing the mascots, but he will ask the principals about "timing."
"I think if there's one or two principals that say, "You know what, this might be a little bit too fast for us right now," then I think we go back and say "What is the right pathway?" said Eakins.
People who support the changes fear it could be back-pedaling.
"We are the only culture in Hillsborough County that keeps being told we need to wait," said Jaymie Perez.