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Hillsborough County high schools may change Native American mascots

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TAMPA, Fla. — Chamberlain High School may not be “home to the Chiefs” much longer.

The Tampa school’s mascot, along with East Bay High, is under fire. The Hillsborough County school board will discuss changing the mascots next Tuesday.

Some people believe the mascot represents strength and honor but others say it’s appropriation.

“You don’t have the Chamberlain Jews,” Sheridan Murphy with the Florida Indigenous Alliance said. “You don’t have the East Bay Mexicans and the resulting stereotypes that come with that.”

He told 8 On Your Side that removing Native American mascots at schools is long overdue.

“American Indians are human beings and not a sports mascot for fun and games,” he said.

A spokesperson with Hillsborough County Schools said the student government bodies at both Chamberlain and East Bay High met with advocacy groups. They also surveyed students, faculty and alumni about changing their mascots. Chamberlain made the decision to move forward.

Here’s a copy of their full statement from Erin Maloney, Hillsborough County Schools spokesperson:

“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.”

“We’re hoping that on the 21st the school board affirms the students votes,” said Murphy.

Not everyone is thrilled with this.

“We have alumni that are saying I get it,” Terry Sisco, president of the Chamberlain High School Legacy Alliance said. “Lets just move on to alumni saying ‘I’m never going to help that school out again’ if they take that away. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

He told 8 On Your Side he understands both sides of the argument and hopes the school an find a way to satisfy everyone.

“Go half and half and create a win-win situation and stay the Chiefs but change the cultural appropriation. We can call ourselves something like the Chamberlain Celtic Chiefs,” he said.

The Florida Indigenous Alliance is holding a rally in support of the mascot change on June 21 at 3 p.m.

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