Should Tulare Union High School have a mascot with any Native American ties, or none at all?
That is the question now before the Tulare Joint Union High School District board. It is far from making a decision.
Under a state law that passed this year, schools with the current mascot name of Redskins must find a different one by Jan. 1, 2017. Redskins has been Tulare Union’s mascot for decades.
A committee brainstormed new names, and recommended Tribe as the top choice, followed by Legends and Renegades.
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At a meeting Thursday night, board member Cathy Mederos said Tribe may cause issues later for the same reasons that Redskins was banned.
“You can’t help but thinking of Tribe as being Native American,” she said. “We’re missing an opportunity to get away from a Native American mascot.”
Principal Michelle Nunley said the committee recommended Tribe because it wants to keep the Native American symbols now used on campus.
“They want to maintain as much as possible our imagery,” she said.
We’re missing an opportunity to get away from a Native American mascot.
Board member Cathy Mederos
But board member Laura Fonseca said she wanted to know if the imagery can be maintained.
“Do we need to research whether we can have the imagery we have now?” she asked.
Board president Frank Fernandes said the trustees should choose a name and worry about imagery later.
The school district is in communication with the Tule River Indian tribe to make sure no images or school traditions are offensive, he said.
The issue of the new mascot name is expected to be taken up at the June 9 board meeting, after the Tulare Union High senior class graduates under the current Redskins name.
The committee recommended a new mascot name be chosen by the start of the new school year. The school district administration’s recommended timeline is for the board to act by the end of June.
Three other high schools are wrestling with finding a nickname to replace Redskins.
Gustine in western Merced County chose Reds in February, going back to its roots – the school’s teams used that nickname about 100 years ago.
Calaveras High School in San Andreas has reportedly narrowed its choices to Skulls (calavera is Spanish for skull), Reds, Red Tail Hawks or no mascot at all.
And Chowchilla has said in the past it plans to leave the mascot in place until after the school celebrates its centennial anniversary in October.
The Merced Sun-Star contributed to this report.