With wide support from classmates, teachers and administrators, the John Burroughs High School Associated Student Body is officially in search of a new mascot.
Of the 1,540 votes from the student body, 63.7% supported a change. The Indian has been the mascot since JBHS was established in 1948.
“It was a large turnout of voters,” said Matt Hill, the Burbank Unified School District’s superintendent, who was pleased with the result. “It was great that a lot of students weighed in and got to vote.”
The process, spearheaded by ASB President Nadaly Jones, a senior, began in August with research performed by ASB members and a discussion amid concerns that the school symbol was racist and outdated. Of the 40 student government representatives, 37 voted to bring the issue to Burroughs students.
ASB leaders will sift through possible replacements and present options to the student body for a vote, though a timetable has not been established.
In an effort to hear different opinions and perspectives, ASB reached out to Native American tribes and Burroughs alumni. Community members also participated in a virtual forum last month to discuss and ask questions to administrators and current students.
“I’ve been very impressed with the work of the students,” Hill said. “They were thorough, and they researched the topic and received feedback. They looked at a situation and heard from students and faculties and other families. They didn’t feel the mascot represented them well and looked at the issue thoughtfully.”
In the forum, Rachel Hendrickson, a JBHS alumna and enrolled citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, said it perpetuates misconceptions about the culture and urged action “because at this current state, the mascot only serves as a vessel to dehumanize very real, living people in our community.”
“It undermines the educational experience of all members of the community, especially those who have had little or no contact to indigenous peoples,” Hendrickson added.
Most of the statements by those former students who opposed a change said the mascot is very much tied to the history of the school and city. Some claimed to have Native American heritage and said they took pride in the mascot and saw it as a sign of respect.
The call for changing a mascot associated with Native Americans isn’t exclusive to Burbank. It has been a topic of conversation nationally for years. Most recently, a beloved National Football League franchise — the Redskins — rebranded and temporarily changed its name to the Washington Football Team.
The American Psychological Association, NCAA and NAACP are among many groups and organizations that support retiring mascots associated with American Indians.
Burroughs students’ consideration and decision reflects the district’s recent efforts to provide a more diverse, equitable and inclusive environment at Burbank schools.
BUSD launched a website to share DEI resources and information and created an anti-racism statement that was recently reiterated by Luther Middle School Principal Oscar Macias after an incident at the school.
Also, Hill recently removed “The Cay,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Of Mice and Men” from the core novels list after receiving multiple complaints. The books will no longer be part of the BUSD curriculum but are still available at the school libraries.