A student-driven effort to get a Parkersburg High School’s mascot removed has gained traction via a change.org petition. Rose Schock, 18, of Parkersburg, is a high school senior at PHS who started the petition this summer, asking the Wood County Schools Board of Education to do away with its “Big Red” mascot, which the petition describes as “ offensive, obsolete, and outdated.”
Earlier this year, Schock took an ancestry test confirming her own indigenous heritage, which made her think about what representation of Native Americans in current culture means to her and her family.
“It’s always been a thought for me and my family, but especially in the wake of the Washington Redskins changing their name to the Washington Football Team and these other schools and institutions moving away from these harmful stereotypes that kept being perpetuated,” she said.
Schock said a common argument in support of the school’s mascot is the tradition behind it. However, Schock discovered in her research that, while the school adopted its “Big Red” colors in 1915, the mascot did not become a part of the school’s legacy until the 1960s.
“Our own high school is less than 1 percent Native American and it’s really strange that this mascot … does not represent this area, nor the original people who were here in this area,” she said.
Schock said she has felt supported in her efforts to get the mascot removed, though she knows dissent is there. A counter-petition to her own exists, and the administration has remained silent on the matter. A request for Principal DeMoss to comment on this article went unanswered earlier this month.
“I’ve had a lot of people that have been kind about it, signing, supporting, getting the word out,” Schock said. “But there has been opposition, specifically from older people who have lived in the area for a long time or were PHS graduates. The main argument against it is the tradition and that they never experienced anything against it when they were in school. But West Virginia has a low Native American population, especially in Parkersburg.”
Still, Schock hopes to see a change made at her school as well as others in similar circumstances down the road.
“On Indiginous Peoples’ Day, there was an NPR article talking about the effects [of these stereotypes], the vast amount of schools that still use these slurs and stereotypes,” she said. “It’s really harmful to showcase an entire community in this way that is so old now.”