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Parents group pushes Hillsborough County Schools to rename schools with Native American mascots

"It's not an honor to be somebody else's mascot and be made fun of," said Shannon Durant.

TAMPA, Fla. — School mascots are supposed to bring communities together, but a local parent group representing the interests of Native American students says mascots at several schools in Hillsborough County are driving division.

Shannon Durant, chair of the Hillsborough Title VI Parent Advisory Committee, says she and others support plans to address the Hillsborough County School Board on Tuesday evening regarding the mascots for Chamberlain and East Bay high schools.

Durant says using the Chamberlain Chiefs and the East Bay High School Indians as mascots is not an honor.

"Native Americans are not mascots,” she said. "When people say that they're honoring us, they're not honoring us. It's not an honor to be somebody else's mascot and be made fun of."

Back in May of 2019, the district decided to move forward with changing Native American mascots at six schools: Adams Middle School, Forest Hills Elementary, Ruskin Elementary, Thonotosassa Elementary, Brooker Elementary and Summerfield Elementary.

However, mascots for East Bay and Chamberlain remained.

This year, some petitioned to keep the mascot at East Bay. A Change.org petition currently has more than 3,800 signatures.

In September, the district pressed pause on town hall discussions about the names.

"We've asked for this for six years. It took four years to get the elementary and middle school changed. We were asked to hold off on the high schools. We did. It's two years later. We would like to move forward,” said Durant.

Hillsborough County Schools spokesperson Erin Maloney said in a statement: 

"While the Superintendent and board paused the process earlier this year, district staff continues to engage with student groups and members of the community to have this important discussion. Our district respects and honors diversity and inclusion and looks forward to receiving more input from all stakeholders.”

The mascot issue is not on Tuesday’s school board agenda. However, the board will be acknowledging Native American Heritage Month with a proclamation.

Parents say they will raise their concerns during public comment.

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