Ad Hoc committee discusses plans for new inclusive mascot at high school

Ricky Podgorski, Editor-in-Chief

As civil unrest in the United States continues, communities have begun to reflect on their safety, civility, and inclusivity to others. The high school has considered over the years changing the current mascot of the Indian, to a more culturally appropriate mascot. On July 7, the FHS Ad Hoc Committee was established to consider the ways in which the community can address the mascot to ensure it has a positive educational impact and poses respect towards race and culture.

The committee began their work this past September, where discussions began to reach an ultimate goal of recommending a new mascot to the Board of Education. The FHS Ad Hoc Committee emphasizes listening and powerful discussion, and hopes members as well as the community can educate each other on the circumstances of the mascot.

“The purpose of the FHS Ad Hoc committee is to engage in a community discussion, with the assistance of experts in the field, on the subjects of race, culture, and the use of Native American school mascots, symbols and names,” according to the FHS Ad Hoc Committee charge.

The committee began by discussing the history of the Tunxis Indians, the native tribe to Farmington. Professionals such as Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Education at the University of Connecticut Glenn Mitoma presented a variety of topics about the influence of the mascot on the community and the specifics of the Tunxis tribe. Recently, the committee discussed elements and strategies that other schools are using that are going through a similar process with their mascot. Sophomore committee member Luke Watson was selected to be a student representative and understands the importance of his role on the committee.

“As a student, it is important to understand the versatility of people and cultures and their opinions and feelings to make sure the school is welcoming and everyone feels safe to learn and express themselves and not be treated differently for it. It is also important to share student opinions and views on the mascot to make sure everyone’s views are included. Being a part of this committee enhances leadership and communication skills that are more important than ever in this day and age,” Watson said.

Along with student representatives, and adults from the Farmington community, teachers are a part of the committee. English teacher Vanessa Clarke was selected as a representative for teachers and continues to progress the committee forward.

“As we have conversations about our mascot, it is clear that it is not simply a high school conversation. This is a conversation about our community. One of the goals of the committee is to discuss the educational impact that our mascot has on all of our students; I believe it is important to think about all of our students in this conversation. Furthermore, as an educator of color, I think it is important that we foster a culture of respect for other races and cultures. It is important for us to have challenging conversations, so that we can all understand each other as human beings. Part of the human experience is developing empathy for those that have experiences different from our own, and appreciate those different lived experiences,” Clarke said.

The Ad Hoc Committee will continue to meet for the remainder of the calendar year, hopefully finding an option for a new mascot by January 2021. A recommendation will be produced by the Ad Hoc Committee, but the final decision will be from the Board of Education. Meetings are held virtually and open to the public. Links to the virtual meetings can be found on the FHS Ad Hoc Committee website.