The controversy over the Coachella Valley high school mascot, the Arabs, is now big enough to draw a visit from the group who first took offense.l A representative from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) came to Southern California for one reason. "To ensure that we're on the same page and agreeing to how we move forward," said Coachella Valley Unified School District superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams.
Dr. Adams spoke to media without the ADC Director of legal and policy affairs, Abed Ayoub, because of a flight delay. Adams spoke about progress made in the two last week, even prompting the ADC to back off from its original letter. "It's no longer requested to us that we change the name, but a positive alternative for the image."
The image is under scrutiny, as well as a halftime performance called the "Genie Dance." Despite Adams' optimism, Ayoub told us by phone, the name's still very much on the table. "What are the details and how do we move forward," said Ayoub. "Before any final decisions, we welcome the conversation in person."
Then, he can get an up-close view of the murals on the walls, the logo and name on clothes and plastered all around the gym. It would be an expensive project to remove or alter. Adams told reporters the ADC volunteered to pay the bill. "If there are changes made, they're willing to finance those changes, we're not there yet," said Adams.
But they won't ever be there, at least if it's up to Ayoub. He says they'll brainstorm fundraising ideas but no way they can open their wallets. "We're a non-profit organization, this is not in our operating budget," said Ayoub. "This is not something we have money financed for."
Mr. Ayoub met with Dr. Adams and Coachella mayor Eduardo Garcia Tuesday night. He is scheduled to continue his visit with a tour of the school, speaking to students and teachers.
On Friday, a passionate group of Coachella Valley high school students, alumni and supporters came together to send a clear message at a special board meeting held by the Coachella Valley Unified School District. The meeting was held to discuss the recent criticism from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee regarding CVHS's mascot. The Arab has been the symbol of the school since the 1930s. In a letter to the district, the ADC called the mascot and nickname "no longer tolerable in the 21st century" and "enforcing negative stereotypes of an entire ethnic group." "Basically, what we're talking about now is the mascot, what's offensive about it, should we change it and how should we change it," said CVUSD superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams.
A logo which you can find on T-shirts, sweat pants and on the walls of the gym. It's undergone several changes since it was adopted in the 1930s. Supporters say it's only meant to honor the Arab culture. Alumni president Rich Ramirez even put the logo next to former Saudi Arabian king Fahd on a poster board to prove the point. "They don't get conquered very easily, they keep coming back for more," said Ramirez. "As a result for us, they've given us the dates, the industry we have here."
It was announced the school will definitely keep the "Arab" name. Now, the district's working to find a compromise, but one thing the ADC definitely wants to see changed is the logo. The ADC says it "depicts a man with a large nose, heavy beard, and wearing a Kaffiay, or traditional Arab head covering." "We've tweaked it before, it's not a disrespect if we do it now," said Ramirez. "I think it's a positive thing to work together.
Some students at the meeting even presented alternative mascots that could be used. However, the vast majority of those in attendance at the meeting said they want nothing to change. "A watered-down version of our mascot will take away all the qualities we admire most in the Arab culture," said one concerned alumni.
"The students want to keep it exactly how it was," said Coachella Valley high school senior Taylor Garcia. "it's already been changed, why change it more, let's just keep it."
Garcia said she sent out a survey to the student body and 95% responded they don't want change.
The board plans to ask for more input before it makes any decisions. No matter what happens, Ramirez honored the crowd for their passion and pride. "The Arab is you, you are the Arab."
The next school board meeting is set for Thursday, November 21.