Recent Tulare Union High School graduate Lisette Rodriguez hopes to become an English teacher at her alma mater one day.
Preferably a Tulare Union still using the “Redskin” nickname, she says.
“It would be great to have my kids attend Union with the same mascot,” she said.
California Assembly Bill 30, penned by Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), would bann the use of the mascot name “Redskins” in all public schools. The bill is making its way through the legislature, already having successfully passed through two committee votes and one floor vote.
Hoping Union would still have the “Redskins” mascot if she ever becomes a teacher there, Rodriguez started an online petition seeking to derail AB30.
Launched last week, the petition has already received nearly 3,000 signatures.
“Let’s continue to fight for our beautiful mascot, to keep the name for many more years to come,” Rodriguez wrote on a message about the petition.
Alejo introduced the bill in December, saying the word “Redskins” is derogatory and a racial slur.
The bill describes the origins of “Redskin,” which was used in the 1700s when early settlers offered a bounty for killing Native American people.
“Redskin” was used to describe the bloody scalp that was provided as proof of a killing, according to the bill.
“Every September we honor National American Heritage Month,” Alejo said. “But the way we should truly honor Native Americans is to stand on moral principle and do what is the right to end the use of this insulting racial slur against them.”
The couldn’t be further from the truth, Rodriguez said. The school has Chief Seattle at the campus’ Pride Park and the mascot is present at Friday night football games.
“We’re honoring the name Redskins,” she said.
Graduates showed their school pride by wearing T-shirts, Rodriguez said.
Already, the petition has been signed by Zac Diles, who played football for the school. He also played college football at Kansas State and in the NFL with the Houston Texans.
“I’m an extremely proud Redskin alumni,” Diles wrote.
Other petition signers include residents of Tulare, Visalia and Porterville. Rodriguez said the petition had also received support from residents in Alaska, Ohio and Calaveras High School, another school that uses the mascot name “Redskins.”
A petition signer identified as Ray Perkins from Atlanta, Ga., wrote: “Tulare isn’t Tulare without Tulare Union redskins.”
Assembly Bill 30 has also reached Tulare council. Council member Shea Gowin, who signed the petition, wrote on social media: “Sacramento needs to butt out of local issues.”
Tulare Vice Mayor Carlton Jones, whose council district includes Tulare Union, said he plans to organize a town hall meeting to get locals’ input. A date hasn’t been set yet.
Council member Craig Vejvoda, a Tulare Union grad, said council should send a letter opposing AB 30. However, the letter might not be enough.
“I don’t suspect it would do any good,” he said. “But I think it will show support for our school.”
Jones, who graduated from Tulare Western, said it might be time for a mascot name change.
“The last thing we want to do is continue to offend somebody,” he said. “If there’s something that’s offensive, we have to respect that.”
Rodriguez said she disagreed.
“I feel the school has shown great respect to the name and it shouldn’t change,” she said.
The other schools
Besides Tulare Union, high schools in Chowchilla, Gustine and Calaveras also used the Redskins mascot name. The schools are opposing the name change, citing the show of respect the schools have given the “Redskins” name. If the bill becomes law, the schools would have to change their mascot name.
Chowchilla School District Superintendent Ron Seals said AB 30’s depiction is wrong. Citing a book on Native Americans, Seals said natives, who were light skinned, rubbed their bodies with oil, which gave them a reddish appearance.
“It’s not a derogatory term in Chowchilla,” Seals said. “It reflects our heritage.”
Located in Madera County, Chowchilla is nearing its 100th year and has been using the “Redskins” name since 1928.
Chowchilla has 980 students and would face a significant financial loss if AB 30 becomes law. Replacing uniforms for teams, marching bands and the stationary around the school is just the beginning.
The school has murals depicting the mascot, Seals said. The school’s gym also has the name and a profile painted on the court. Sanding down the wooden floor would likely come with a six-figure price tag, he said.
There’s also a mosaic art piece at the school’s football filed that would have to be removed.
“That’s not cheap,” Seals said.
Assembly Bill 30 is being closely watched in Gustine, said School District Superintendent Ron Estes.
Already, the school board has sent a letter to the legislature opposing the bill. The Gustine City Council has also expressed opposition.
It’s also a topic that should be decided locally, Estes said.
In its opposition letter, the Gustine council also argued local control.
“[T]he ‘community of Gustine and the leaders who are elected by the voting public to administer the institutions that serve the community are more than capable of considering the issue and making decisions that are in the best interests of the community,'” the bill in part read.
Gustine has about 1,000 students, Estes said.
The economic impact of AB 30 on Gustine High School is estimated at about $105,000.
In Calaveras, School District Superintendent Mark Campbell has received numerous calls seeking comment about AB 30.
The school will comply with what the state legislature decides. There’s no estimate on the financial impact at the school and students would be involved in picking a new name, Campbell says.
Calaveras High School has about 900 students and is more than 100 years old. The school has used the “Redskins” mascot name since its inception.
Rodriguez, who started the petition to derail AB 30, said Assembly member Alejo should tour Tulare Union and witness first-hand the pride demonstrated on the “Redskins” names.
“I feel like talking to him and showing him,” she said.
Chowchilla Superintendent Seals said a visit from Alejo is already too late.
“If he was concerned, he would have researched and visited,” he said.
|Chowchilla News Day
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