Controversy surrounds idea to change racially insensitive mascots at Toms River schools

There is a push to change the name of some mascots at Toms River schools that some say are racially insensitive.

News 12 Staff

Jul 17, 2020, 2:56 AM

Updated 1,368 days ago

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There is a push to change the name of some mascots at Toms River schools that some say are racially insensitive.
Toms River High School South graduate Trevor Batchelder is one of more than 900 people to sign a petition calling for Toms River Regional Schools to retire the mascots, including the Toms River High School South “Indians.”
“It’s not something that I thought about a lot as a high schooler,” he says. “But the more that I read and reach out…it’s clear that it is not viewed as something that’s respectful or celebratory of the culture and I think that’s the reason why I signed it.”
But not everyone agrees with the call for change. Petitions to keep the mascots have also surfaced, receiving more than 3,200 signatures – including one from Theresa Gumieniak of Seaside Heights.
“I don’t see anything offensive at all…I’m part Indian. I’m part Cherokee. Proud of it. These mascots – what have they done to people to change the name?” she says. “Everything’s going to be bland because they’re trying to erase everything and change everything…I just say, leave it as it is.”
But Matthew Campbell, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund says in a statement, "We would be in support of changing mascots that contain native imagery…Not only are Native American mascots offensive, but they also cause real documented harm to the mental health of Native American and Alaska Native students."
Batchelder says that even just discussing the issue in a meaningful way is a positive change.
“There’s lots more that we need to do for indigenous groups who have been marginalized for centuries in North America, but this is a good place to start,” he says.
Schools and teams across the country have been changing their mascots referring to Native Americans, including most recently, the Washington Redskins in the NFL.


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