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Southern California high school's ethnic mascot to get facelift

  • In this Nov. 10, 2005 photo, Coachella Valley High School's mascot, "Arab," dances to the band during a pep rally at the school in Thermal, Calif. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is calling on the Southern California high school to get rid of its longstanding mascot that it deems offensive. The mascot has been around since the 1920s and chosen to recognize the area's reliance on date farming, traditionally a Middle Eastern crop. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Marilyn Chung) RIVERSIDE PRESS-ENTERPRISE OUT; NO SALES; NO FOREIGN

"We're still going to stick with the Arab," said school board president Lowell Kemper after scores of residents defended the tradition dating back generations. "It's just a matter of whether we have a change in the caricature of the mascot."

It's a twist on a decades-old issue that has centered primarily on Native American mascots, logos and nicknames and has transformed Indians to Cardinal at Stanford University and Chieftains to Redhawks at Seattle University.

But the Arab debate spurs the same set of questions: Is it possible to craft a mascot in the image of an ethnic group that doesn't offend, or are schools better off scrapping the idea altogether?

The debate comes as the more familiar Indian controversy has gained increased heat.

Last year, Oregon's Board of Education decided to cut state funding to schools that fail to retire their Native American mascots, while Wisconsin passed a law in 2010 that forces schools to drop race-based mascots if a complaint is filed and the practice is found discriminatory.


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