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Bakersfield City School District board to review mascot policy

A sign with a mascot image for Frank West Elementary near Wilson Road and South H Street in Bakersfield, Calif., is seen Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. The Bakersfield City School District board is slated to review its mascot policy at a meeting Monday night. (KBAK/KBFX photo/Carol Ferguson)

Monday night, the Bakersfield City School District board will look at its policies on school mascots, and members of the local Tejon Tribe say they want to see what happens.

Last year, the California Racial Mascots Act was passed, which specifically bans school teams from using the term "Redskins."

"We want an open dialog," Sandra Hernandez told Eyewitness News late Monday afternoon. She's a spokeswoman with the Tejon Tribe, the only federally recognized tribe in Kern County.

School board members and administrators declined to comment on the issue until the board meeting.

Two schools in the district do have the image of a Native American as part of their logos, Wayside School on Ming Avenue and Frank West Elementary near Wilson Road and South H Street.

One school board member told Eyewitness News the item on Monday is to look at possibly updating the district's policies.

The mascots act that was signed by the governor last October says beginning Jan. 1, 2017, "all public schools are prohibited from using the term Redskins for school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames."

It also states that many organizations experienced in human relations "...have concluded that the use of Native American images and names in school sports is a barrier to equality and understanding, and that all residents of the United States would benefit from the discontinuance of their use."

As to the question of images related to Native Americans, Hernandez said that is also a problem.

She said the term "Redskin" was clearly considered offensive, but among Native Americans, their discomfort "snowballed." They are also offended by the "use and depiction of Native American faces and images."

Hernandez said she's particularly concerned about the impacts on children.

Eyewitness News was told an open discussion is expected on the issue at the board meeting, but it's on the agenda as a "first reading," and the board members could not take any action until their December meeting at the earliest.

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