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Carpinteria School Board Votes On Potential Reinstatement of Racist Mascot
CARPINTERIA, California (March 16, 2009) – On Tuesday, March 17, the school board of Carpinteria, California will meet to vote whether or not to rescind their own 2008 decision to remove all imagery that stereotypes Native American peoples from Carpinteria High School. Tuesday’s vote is the climax of a conflict that began almost a year ago when 15-year-old Chumash youth Eli Cordero petitioned the Carpinteria district school board to change the school mascot which he and the local Native community find offensive and racist.
Since the April 2008 decision, many citizens of Carpinteria have waged a campaign of intimidation against those who supported the school board’s decision, as well as the school board itself. Over the past year, the Native American community in Carpinteria has endured multiple death threats, violent harassment and the public targeting of children. The conflict in Carpinteria has attracted the attention of national media as well as the Federal Department of Justice.
A May 2008 school board meeting in Carpinteria was moved from the 40-seat city hall to the high school gymnasium, ostensibly to allow for “greater public participation”. However, the move created what the Native American community viewed to be a contrived situation designed for maximum intimidation. Board meeting participants from Carpinteria’s small Native American minority were shouted down during their attempts to speak by the overwhelming non-Native crowd. Native people also endured racial slurs and taunting and were spit upon as they entered and exited the building. This Tuesday’s school board meeting has been again moved to the high school gymnasium and local Native people fear a repeat of the threatening tactics and humiliation they endured at the May 2008 meeting.
Coalition Against Racism in Education (C.A.R.E.) will hold a prayer ceremony and rally at Carpinteria High School at 4pm on Tuesday, March 17th, shortly before the school board meeting. C.A.R.E. demands that the previous decision be upheld in accordance with official positions on Native American mascots published by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the National Education Association, the American Psychological Association and the National Collegiate Athletic Association, among others.
(photo of Eli Cordero by Paul Wellman)