Pause or proceed? Hillsborough school board to discuss Native American mascot changes

Image 1 of 3

The debate over Native American school mascots in Hillsborough County will take center stage at a school board meeting Tuesday, and some board members say they never got a chance to weigh in on the initial decision.

Last month, school district officials announced plans to have certain schools change their mascots, but the plan is in limbo. Students at Brooker Elementary School in Brandon gathered more than 600 signatures on a petition to keep their mascot – the Braves – which the district initially announced it would change.

Their efforts have the attention of the school board. Last week, students and parents of the school showed up to last week's school board meeting with their petition to keep the Braves nickname. 

"The Braves is an honor to have as the Brooker Elementary mascot," said young Maggie Ramos during that meeting. 

In May, the district announced it had worked with a Native American parent advisory group who recommended the district scrap names like “Chiefs,” “Tribe” and “Indian Braves” at six of its elementary and middle schools. The district said the mascots – which have roots from the 1950s and 1960s – were unintentionally offensive because they reduced human beings to cartoons. However, not everyone agreed.

"I grew up in the Forest Hills area," explained Steve Cona III, one of the school board members. "That community embraced the fact that you went to elementary school and you were brave, and went to middle schoole and you were a warrior, and then you became a chief. Those are traditions that bind communities together."

"None of us had an opportunity to say whether we like this or not," he added.

Some students and parents at Brooker Elementary started the “Save the Braves” petition hoping for school board members to reconsider changing their mascot. 

"I understand it is in the superintendent's right to do this, but I also understand that we are elected officials and we have to respond to the community," said Stacy Hahn, school board member, during last week's meeting. "The community is asking us to halt this for now." 

School board officials voted unanimously to discuss the mascot changes at Tuesday’s meeting, which begins at 3:30 p.m.