Houston School Board Gives Preliminary OK To Banning Certain Mascot Names

People crowded the Houston school board Thursday night as it considered a ban on certain mascot names
Last night at its meeting, the Houston school board took the first step to changing certain mascot names. But before the vote, the proposed ban on names like the Lamar Redskins sparked an intense debate.

For more than half an hour, dozens of people told the Houston school board exactly what they think about banning certain mascot names.

There were Native American leaders like Laura Thompson.

“In my language, it doesn’t say red skin it says red people. Here’s an example that we could use: If I said, ‘Let’s cheer for the honkies, Yay! Hooray, hooray for the Chinks, let’s hear it for the N-word, Yay!’ Would you like that?”

Then there were former students from Lamar who rallied to keep their mascot as the Redskins.

Julie Moran graduated in 1980. She says on the drill team back then she wore white leather moccasins and a full headdress. She’s proud of that.

“My Cherokee heritage traces back to the survivors of the Trail of Tears from Alabama to the then Indian Territory of Oklahoma. I am proud to remember the sacrifice they made. By being a Lamar Redskin, I will carry that title to my grave with no regrets.”

Superintendent Terry Grier wants to ban mascot names that refer to racial or ethnic groups. It affects four Houston schools including the Lamar Redskins.

Native American Chance Landry speaks
Native American Chance Landry speaks in support of banning mascot names like the Lamar Redskins

Grier was silent during the comments that delved into history, school pride, genocide and political correctness.

But current students spoke like Juan Vides from Lamar.

“We see it as a sign of respect, as a sign of honor, not as mockery, whereas people have interpreted it in the past. As people change so do meanings.”

Another student Maya Fontenot sees a different meaning.

“Well, I am here telling you as a Native American, that you are not honoring my people. You are retaining us into a brand of which you have reduced my entire culture into — into something so superficial as a mascot — it is an insult to the indigenous people.”

The board member who represents Lamar High School, Harvin Moore, says he has to recognize that point of view.

“I do feel like if the people themselves affected come forward and say we’re offended by your use of our, our nation, our ethnicity and turning it into a mascot, I gotta, I have to respect that.”

Trustee Michael Lunceford says he’s been through this before when he was in high school.

“In 1972, in Tyler Texas, I went to Robert E. Lee High School where they changed the mascot from the Rebels to the Red Raiders. You will survive. The mascot is not what makes the school. It’s the people in the school and what they want — the schools themselves. You’ll get past this.”

After the public comments, the board voted unanimously to ban culturally insensitive mascot names. It is expected to take a second and final vote at its next meeting in January.

Bio photo of Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for KUHF, including K-12 and higher education.

Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and regularly contributed to WLRN, the local NPR affiliate and Miami Herald news partner...