School Mascots Under Fire, Vallejo to Reconsider "Apache"

High school mascot after a civil rights group called it offensive

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Vallejo school leaders are considering changing the name of the American Indian mascot of the district's main high school because many find it offensive. Jodi Hernandez reports. (Published Monday, Nov 18, 2013)

    Washington Redskins. A Southern California school's "Arab" mascot. And now, the "Apache" Indian mascot of Vallejo High School.

    Vallejo school leaders are considering changing the name of the American Indian mascot of the district's main high school because many find it offensive.
     
    The Vallejo Unified School District Board of Education on Wednesday is set to vote on whether to scrap the mascot.
     
    The mascot has long been a source of tension between people who believe the name honors the Apache and those who feel it is offensive to American Indians.

    Mildred Wagner, who serves as a secretary for the Intertribal Council of Solano County, says she has been troubled for years by Vallejo High's mascot. She is among those pushing the district to change it.

    "We have native students that go to the school and we've heard they're embarrassed about the whole thing," Wagner said. "They're scared to say they're Native American because they'll be ridiculed and teased."

    And as for some of the fans and opponents, Wagner said sometimes they chant "Scalp 'em," and it's embarrassing to some of the American Indian students.

    But Timothy Banks, who runs the Vallejo Community Access Station and films many of the school's game, says he's never seen or heard anything disrespectful regarding the name Apache.

    "It's a little over the top," he said. "I don't think it's a legitimate complaint."
     
    A staff report by Vallejo City Unified School District says the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommends avoiding the use of Native American images and nicknames. The report does not offer a specific replacement for the Apache mascot.  Officials say the school will likely retain its colors even if the board approves the mascot change.

    Tony Ubalde, who serves as the school board's vice president, says he understand the complaints and will consider both sides when he votes on Wednesday.

    "They have a voice and they're being heard," he said.

    There are 14 high schools with an Apache mascot in the United States, according to maxpreps.com, a website that tracks high school sports team. Four are in California: Sanger High School, Centennial High School in Compton, Arcadia High School and Vallejo.

    This controversy follows on the heels of what's been going on in Southern California, where school officials at Coachella Valley High School are under fire over its "Arab" mascot -- a mustachioed man with a scraggly beard and hooked nose. 

    Abed A. Ayoub, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s director of legal and policy affairs, wrote a letter to the district on Nov. 1 saying that cartoons, mugs and T-shirts of the mascot around the campus, were examples of stereotyping, and should not be tolerated.

    There has been no clear resolution on what will happen with this situation.

    On a professional level, Native American activists and a few media outlets, along with President Barack Obama, have been challenging the moniker of Washington's NFL team, the "Redskins." Though the team still bears the name, the San Francisco Chronicle has decided not to refer to the team by that name.

    NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. contributed to this report.

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