HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — On the agenda for the June 21 school board meeting in Hillsborough County, the board members will decide whether to allow the initial steps for Chamberlain High School to begin the process of getting a new mascot.
In May 2019, the district decided to change Native American mascots at six different schools across Hillsborough County. Only Chamberlain and East Bay High Schools remained.
Since then, the Title VI Native American Parent Advisory Council requested that both schools change their "Chiefs" and "Indians" mascot and imagery. Chamberlain's Student Government Association gathered input from the student body and faculty and recommended to the principal and superintendent that the mascot be changed.
Terry Sisco is president of the Chamberlain High School Legacy Alliance. He says reaction from alumni has been mixed.
"We have people that have evolved, and say I totally understand, and it’s time. To other people who are very emotional about the chief, and want everything to stay as it was," Sisco said.
There has been growing pressure from the Title VI Native American Parent Advisory Council to make the change.
"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," said Advisory Chair Shannon Durant in an interview last year.
We reached out to the district, and Spokesperson Erin Maloney responded with the following statement:
"Hillsborough County Public Schools values community input and stakeholder involvement at each school. The district responded to requests from Native American groups to rename student mascots at both East Bay and Chamberlain High Schools. In keeping with established processes, naming mascots is a student-lead initiative at the school level. Both Chamberlain and East Bay High School student government bodies were tasked with meeting Native American advocacy groups and surveying students, staff, and alumna to decide if there current mascots should remain. Chamberlain's student government made the recommendation to change the mascot moving forward following input from students, staff, and their alumni association. We look forward to the process and are excited to see Chamberlain students begin a new tradition that will live on for years to come."
Sisco says some alumni are hoping to find a compromise.
"Back in 1956 the Chamberlain student body appropriated the Native American imagery, so the thought process is let’s keep the name Chief let’s just come up with a different appropriation with a dead culture," he said.