Coachella Valley High School's mascot, the "Arab," draws criticism from an Arab-American civil rights organization. Tony Shin reports from Thermal for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Nov. 7, 2013.
An Arab-American civil rights group is calling for a Southern California high school to drop its "Arab" mascot - a mustachioed man with a scraggly beard, a large, hooked nose and a traditional head scarf.
The controversy brews as the NFL's Washington Redskins face mounting pressure to change its name, which is seen as offensive to Native Americans.
Coachella Valley High School's mascot, the Arab, performs with a female belly dancer during halftime shows at sports events. He's depicted in cartoons around the Thermal, Calif. campus and on T-shirts and mugs.
"All of these are examples of gross stereotyping, which must not be tolerated, and must immediately be addressed," says a Nov. 1 letter to the school from Abed A. Ayoub, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's director of legal and policy affairs.
"ADC strongly believes that use of the word and such imagery perpetuates demeaning stereotypes of Arabs and Arab Americans."
At the top of the school's homepage early Thursday, an illustrated "Arab" mascot grimaced, wearing a square academic cap.
On Thursday morning, a link on the Coachella Valley Alumni Association's website titled "About Us & Our Mascot" led to a blank page.
However, an archived version of the page explains the "Arab" mascot, saying that it was conceived in the 1920s as a tribute to the date fruit industry in the region. He was initially drawn riding a horse and wearing a turban, but in 1957 was changed to portray a "fierce fighter," the archived site says.
The mascot wore a fez until a group of visiting Saudi Arabians recommended that the fez be replaced by a hijab, or head scarf, the website says.
Superintendent Darryl Adams told the Desert Sun that the Coachella Valley Unified School District's board will discuss the mascot during its next meeting on Nov. 21.