The use of a Black mannequin head as a “mascot” by a California high school cheer team is under investigation after photos of the team posing with the head circulated online.
“We don’t tolerate racism or discrimination of any kind,” John Malloy, superintendent of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District told McClatchy News.
The cheerleading stunt team is part of California High School in San Ramon, about 35 miles east of San Francisco.
Photos of team members posing with the Black mannequin head were sent to Malloy by email on Saturday, May 21.
An Instagram account called @theblackbayarea posted screenshots of photos of team members in “Cal” jerseys holding up the mannequin head and tagged the account @californiahscheer, which has been deleted.
Malloy said he began looking into the issue and found out that the head, which is something that “would be used in a cosmetology class” has been used by the cheer stunt team as a type of mascot for around five years.
The school’s official mascot is a grizzly bear.
“The intent, as we understand it, was simply as a mascot and one that became part of the culture of the team,” Malloy said. “So the intent was that, but what we’re sharing with our community is that the impact is much more hurtful than that.”
Malloy said he has met with students, including members of the school’s Black Student Union, to discuss the matter. He also plans to meet with members of the team and their families.
California High School has about 3,000 students, including 38% who are white, 36% Asian, 12% Hispanic and 2% Black, according to the school’s accountability report card.
Malloy said he has also reached out to administrators to make sure they are providing support to students who are affected by the photos and has started a process of revising the district’s handbook on responding to discrimination and hate.
“We are committed to safe and inclusive spaces for each and every student,” Malloy said. “Examples like this do not support that commitment. We need to interrupt that because it must be interrupted, and we need to support everybody to do better.”
Malloy said that some adults in the school knew about the existence of the mascot previously. While he wants the students to understand the implications of their actions, he said the adults in the school need to take responsibility.
“Right now, I am taking systemic responsibility for something that adults seem to have known about,” he said. “When we talk about consequences, I very much want everybody involved to understand the impact of their involvement with this.
“We need to interrupt issues of racism and discrimination,” he said. “We need to help our community be accountable for the impact that these actions have, and then we educate to bring about change.”