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Talawanda schools consider mascot change -- again

The Talawanda School District has formed a committee to examine the use of its logo and mascot, the Brave.

The current logo was developed in 2012, when the district considered several designs and ultimately settled on the red Talawanda "T" overlaying a blue silhouette of a Native American head.

The committee has 16 members, half of whom work for the school district including the superintendent, the athletic director, the health and wellness coordinator and the principal at Talawanda High School. The remaining members are citizens of Oxford that have demonstrated an interest in and are involved with the mascot issue.

Ed Theroux, superintendent of the Talawanda School District, created the committee at the direction of the school board after the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), a non-profit law firm that advocates for native people across the country, sent a letter to the school district in June.

In urging Talawanda to change its mascot, the six-page letter shared anecdotes from an alumna of Native descent. It also cited research that proves the negative educational and psychological effects of Native American mascots on students and described the actions of other athletic programs at all levels in abandoning such symbols.

Holli Morrish, director of communications and public relations for the school district, said pressure from outside groups was not the only factor in the committee's formation.

"In recent months, we've had members of the community come to board meetings," Morrish said. "They've taken the opportunity to talk about and present to the board about changing the logo from a Native American. Those comments compelled the board to task Dr. Theroux with putting together a committee to address changing the logo."

The committee members are not all on the same page regarding changing the logo, however.

Some want to keep it, others want to get rid of it and another group feels neutral about the subject.

Tamise Ironstrack, a committee member and professor in Miami University's Spanish and Portuguese department, said the committee's mission has been vague up to this point.

"What I hope is that the discussion becomes about getting rid of the logo and the mascot, but that's never actually been explicitly stated," Ironstrack said. "We have no agenda, no action items. It's all been sort of couched in this idea of exploring how we use logos. But, to me, I think the debate really is about 'Are we going to get rid of it or not?'"

The committee held its first meeting on Monday evening in the Talawanda High School media center. The meeting was largely administrative, with a focus on laying the ground for future meetings. The agenda included introductions from every member, ground rules for meetings and a decision-making policy.

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"We want to ensure we're moving in a direction that's beneficial to our students, while also not tearing the community apart," Theroux said at the meeting.

This is not the first time Talawanda has considered changing its mascot.

In 2010, the Oxford chapter of the NAACP and Oxford Citizens for Peace and Justice united to advocate for changing the mascot and logo. The logo at that time was a profile view of a war-painted, red-skinned Native American warrior.

After months of debating and studying the issue, the school board opted to not change the mascot at that time.

Morrish said the board concluded that the original people who consolidated four Butler County schools into Talawanda had chosen the Brave mascot to connect the schools to the history of the region.

The mascot was again considered two years later, and the most recent iteration of it was created as a result.