NORTH CENTER — Lane Tech College Prep’s school council will launch a survey this week to gather feedback from students, parents, teachers and alumni about the future of its controversial mascot.
The school’s mascot features a Native American man wearing a feathered headdress. Lane’s athletic teams are called the “Indians” on the school’s website and in the Illinois High School Association’s directory.
The mascot and name have been part of the school’s history for more than 100 years. But they’ve long been points of contention between predominately older groups of alumni who insist of keeping them and current students and more recent graduates who have pushed to remove them.
Lane alumni and students renewed efforts to remove the mascot and name due to recent protests against systemic racism. They launched a petition last month to support that cause.
Because many people complained about the mascot to Chicago Public Schools, Principal Brian Tennison directed the school council to address the issue with a vote, said council chairperson Emily Haite.
“It’s important we take a vote one way or the other and get this settled before the new school year starts so it’s not a disruption for teachers or students,” council member Matt Beaudet said at the council’s Tuesday virtual meeting.
The online survey will be sent out via email and social media Friday and collect responses through July 31, said council member Maureen George.
After the survey closes, the Lane community will have a final chance to comment at an Aug. 4 meeting, where the council will vote on whether to keep the “Indian” symbolism, Haite said.
Haite’s daughter, Maggie, who graduated last year, is a vocal advocate for removing the school’s longtime imagery. Council members did not take any positions on the issue Tuesday meeting.
“The decision made will be ours, but we will continue to take feedback from as many people as possible in the school community,” Haite said.
Ahead of the vote, the council will also reach out to Native American organizations — including the American Indian Center, National Congress of American Indians and the Chicago American Indian Community Collaboration — for their feedback, Beaudet said.
Fawn Pochel, education coordinator for the American Indian Center, previously told Block Club the school’s mascot and related murals, statue and totem pole are “are violence against Indigenous people” and should be removed.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Haite also read emails the council received from people for and against the removal of the mascot.
One of those emails was from Nick Triantafel, who said he attended Lane in 1969. He called the council “activists” for even considering a name change and argued the “Indian logo and pride to shoot for the stars was a source of strength,” which has led to so many of Lane’s graduates to have successful lives.
Another commenter, Levi Todd, said the mascot is a “caricature and therefore racist” because it presupposes all Native Americans are from the same tribe and nation.
“To others’ arguments that Lane is honoring Indigenous communities with the mascot — there are countless ways to share these specific tribes and nations’ histories without using a reductive mascot.”
Lane’s student newspaper staff removed the mascot in 2016 from their logo because it was “insensitive to the Native American community.”
The petition launched last month in support of removing the mascot has more than 2,200 signatures, said Citlali Arroyo, who graduated from Lane in 2010.
A separate change.org petition launched by Lane students also went live in June and has more than 5,700 signatures.
In 2017, alumna Gail Grabinski launched a petition to preserve the mascot because it was part of the school’s “tradition.” That petition originally got 2,076 signatures when it first closed.
Grabinski, who graduated in 1983, started soliciting signatures for her petition again in light of the upcoming vote. It had 3,256 signatures as of Wednesday.
“The alumni under 30 years old and the current students don’t understand the reverence that the older Lane Tech generations feel for our Indian,” Grabinski said in an email. “The principal, who has never been a student at Lane Tech, would not understand. Suddenly, our Indian is not politically correct.”
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