Anderson High School will keep its mascot until Thursday at least. That's when the Forest Hills School Board meets again and could vote on the issue. The Redskins mascot is seen by some as racist. Others argue it honors the history of Native Americans.
School board members talked about whether to keep the mascot or to drop it during a virtual special session Tuesday evening. The meeting was streamed on YouTube.
Board Member Dee Dee Choice drafted a proposal to remove the mascot, saying the issue came up again in light of a renewed national discussion on race. "As a Black woman, I've had some experiences," she says.
"How can we tell a group of people of a different culture that something is not offensive when they deem it so?" Choice asked. "Some of them may not be offended. But what about those who are? If it's offensive, it must go."
The original mascot for Anderson High dates back to the school's founding: the Comets. Board President Forest Heis says in 1936, the name was changed, but it's not exactly clear why. Heis says the principal at the time, and a number of faculty members were graduates of Miami University, which at the time was also Redskins.
"We've received emails from students asking us to change the mascot, quite a few," Choice says. "We're here to do what's best for students. We must always do what's in the best interest of students. When action is called for, we must take action. I understand change is hard, but sometimes we just have to make changes."
Board Member Patty Taylor says this is not the right time to make the change. "I'm focused on getting 7,300 students in this district back to school safely in the fall. Focusing on this discussion now is disappointing to me." Taylor says there isn't a plan to deal with in-person or virtual classes when school resumes.
"We do not know what our return-to-school plans are," she says. "We certainly don't know how much more we will have to spend to bring those plans to fruition."
Dr. Heis says one estimate for changing everything with the logo and mascot at the same time came to a million dollars. Board Member Elizabeth Barber says a report from 2018, the last time the district considered the mascot, put the cost between $450,000 and $600,000.
Taylor says "If you do something like this you should have the funds secured before forcing a change. The school's going to be responsible for the funding. Should this actually get passed and the funds are not sufficient, it's going to be the burden of the school."
Board Member Leslie Rasmussen says best practices would indicate a gradual change, to keep costs down. "If we make this change, will we be more or less inclusive?" she asked. "Quite simply, the answer is more, and we all know that. Will we appear more or less welcoming, safe and empathetic to students? The answer is yes."
The board has another meeting scheduled for Thursday, July 2, at 4 p.m. Board members could have a resolution to vote on by then.