Students, parents and community members told elected officials they don’t want Tulare Union High to give up its Native American imagery just because the mascot’s name must change.
The Tulare Joint Union High School District school board made no decision about a new mascot name at Thursday night’s meeting. That will come on June 23.
Last year, the Legislature passed a law banning the use of the Redskins mascot at public high schools.
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Tulare Union High, which has used the same mascot name for decades, must change it by Jan 1. The school board said it will choose a new mascot in two weeks so changes can be made in time for the new school year.
The law was enacted on grounds that the old mascot name is offensive to Native Americans and others.
But Del Blomquist of Tulare, who graduated from the school in the 1940s, said the school board should keep the name as a matter of principle.
To prohibit the name “to me means they are stepping on our freedom of speech,” he said. “It’s an unlawful order. We have the right not to comply with the law at all. I think the school government is completely off base.”
Thomas Franklin Jones Jr., a grandparent of a student, echoed the sentiment.
“I would not change nothing. I don’t care what anybody says,” he said. “They keep taking our rights away from us.”
School board President Frank Fernandes said the name must change despite local feelings.
“Legal action has put us here,” he said. “Today is the time for everyone to vent and get this off their chests.”
Graduates of the school were especially vocal.
“Keep the Redskins,” said Rochelle Miguel. “The Redskins are my family. They have taken away one of my family members.”
They are stepping on our freedom of speech.
Del Blomquist, Tulare resident
In April, an advisory committee of Tulare Union High students, staff and community members recommended three new names: Tribe, Legends and Renegades, with Tribe being the top recommendation.
Diane Jensen, a 1970 graduate of Tulare Union, said that if the name must change, the school board should look at Tulare’s identity in choosing a new name.
“We’re ag,” she said. “Let’s make us what we are. We came from agriculture.”
Student body President Cassidy Dolin said students understand that the name must change.
“If we can keep our images, I don’t see a problem with changing the name,” she said. “We can be the Tribe.”
But students fear the school will lose cherished traditional symbols that are a part of the school’s history, she said: “We were told the Native American symbols will be abolished completely.”
If we can keep our images, I don’t see a problem with changing the name.
Cassidy Dolin, student body president
Tulare resident Randy Celaya, who is Native American of Ohlone and Costanoan ancestry, said the school should keep its symbols.
“The artwork – we have no problem with that,” he said.
But he hinted that the name Tribe is not a good option. “Legends would be the least offensive,” he said.
Four high schools in California are affected by the law – Tulare, Chowchilla, Gustine and Calaveras.
Chowchilla’s school board has yet to choose a new name, while Gustine opted for Reds, which was the school’s original mascot name more than 100 years ago but was dropped in the 1930s as anti-Communist sentiments brewed.
Calaveras chose not to have a mascot name but is keeping the Native American theme in its logos.