THERMAL, Calif. — School officials in Southern California say the “Arabs” name is here to stay, but the divisive costumed mascot that represents them may be changing.
The Coachella Valley Unified School District held a special meeting Friday night to address the recent dustup over the Coachella Valley High School Arabs and their bearded, snarling mascot who wears a headscarf.
Superintendent Darryl Adams said changing the “Arabs” name used since the 1920s by the school in this town east of Palm Springs is off the table, the Desert Sun reported.
“It is a name we will keep,” Adams said during the board meeting.
District officials planned to meet next week with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, a group that has said the mascot is offensive and wants it tossed. The group launched an online petition in an effort to pressure the school to abandon the mascot. So far, 900 people have signed the petition.
Adams said district officials are open to changing the polarizing image represented by the costume and will make an announcement on its future next week.
In a letter to the newspaper earlier this week, Adams said the mascot “was never intended to dishonor or ridicule anyone.”
“A mascot chosen to show reverence and honor for the customs of prideful Middle Eastern peoples throughout our region, now provokes negative feelings, and this must be addressed,” Adams wrote. “Times change, people change, and, subsequently, even symbols and words embraced for decades may need to be considered for change as well.”
The Arab mascot has existed since the 1920s and was chosen to recognize the Coachella Valley’s reliance on date farming, traditionally a Middle Eastern crop. Over the years, the mascot evolved from a turban-wearing horseman carrying a lance to a standing figure with a scowl and a headscarf.
The mascot came under fire earlier this month when the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to the school district complaining that the mascot, which appears in school murals and football games, was stereotypical.