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Edgewood High moves to retire longtime Indian mascot

Review committee unanimously agreed to change mascot

Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School (Image: Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today)
Edgewood Jr./Sr. High School (Image: Malcolm Denemark/Florida Today) (Florida Today 2020)

MERRITT ISLAND, Fla. – Edgewood Jr/Sr High School has taken the first step toward replacing its longtime mascot, the Edgewood Indian, reports News 6 partner Florida Today.

In a letter to parents Thursday, officials at the Merritt Island school said a review committee formed of students, teachers, administrators and community members unanimously agreed to change the mascot, which has come under renewed scrutiny from local critics amid heightened racial tensions around the nation.

“Since our founding, Edgewood has honored the indigenous peoples of Florida with our mascot,” the letter said. “In that great tradition of reverence, Edgewood is proud to announce that ... a decision has been reached to retire the Indian mascot.”

“We do not come to this conclusion lightly,” the letter went on, saying the committee was formed following the urging of “numerous” community members to consider changing the mascot.

The recommendation must go through a lengthy review process that includes community feedback before it is finalized. That could take up to a year, according to an email from Brevard Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Soliven obtained by FLORIDA TODAY.

The school will next present the recommendation to its School Advisory Committee, which meets in September. The meeting will be open for public comment, Soliven’s email said.

School officials declined to comment, referring questions to the Brevard Public Schools Office of Government and Community Relations.

The mascot has recently come under fire from some parents and students, who criticized it as “racist” and “out of date.”

“Our current mascot is ... portrayed as a stereotypical red-faced man in ceremonial garb,” said Edgewood eighth-grader Lily Whiting in a FLORIDA TODAY letter to the editor, published June 24. “Unlike the Seminoles of FSU, our school is not being endorsed by any tribe; in fact, the tribe that lived on that land — the Ais — no longer exist.”

Her brother, 10th-grader Ethan Whiting, said in a separate letter published the same day: “In the future, when we look back on our high school yearbooks, we don’t want to be ashamed about showing our high school photos because of the caricature on the front cover.”

Brevard School Board member Cheryl McDougall, who represents the district that includes Edgewood, said she supported the recommendation.

“I think it’s a good idea. We’re changing with the times to make it more inclusive,” McDougall said, pointing to similar changes being considered by major professional sports teams, including the Cleveland Indians and the team formerly known as the Washington Redskins, which retired its name in July.

Not all were behind the Edgewood committee’s decision. School Board members say they have received emails from residents frustrated by the announcement, and some former students and community members have decried the move on social media.

“I do not support it all,” said Greg Cope, a Merritt Island resident and former Edgewood student.

“It’s a mascot. ... That’s all it is,” Cope said. “We are in the midst of a pandemic and with brick-and-mortar school just opening, I personally feel that the safety of our kids, teachers and staff is way more important than the removal of a mascot.”

Cope added he felt the school should have considered a wider variety of views before making its recommendation.

“Instead of educating people ... right now we’re just teaching our kids, you complain about something and they do away with it, it vanishes.”

Eric Rogers is the education watchdog reporter for FLORIDA TODAY. Please consider subscribing to support important local news on education, business, crime and other topics you care about.

Contact Rogers at 321-242-3717 or esrogers@floridatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @EricRogersFT.