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California high school drops controversial mascot, but keeps 'Arabs' nickname

High School Arab Masc_Cham640.jpg

FILE - In this Nov. 10, 2005, file photo, Coachella Valley High School's mascot, 'Arab,' dances to the band during a pep rally at the school in Thermal, Calif. The hook-nosed, snarling mascot who wears a head scarf did not appear at Coachella Valley High School's season opening football game Friday. (AP Photo/The Desert Sun, Marilyn Chung, File)

A Southern California high school has retired a controversial Arab mascot.

The bearded, snarling mascot with a large hooked nose who wears a head scarf did not appear at Coachella Valley High School's season opening football game on Friday. A belly-dancing genie that often appears with the mascot during halftime was also retired.

The Desert Sun reports the change was among the steps the Coachella Valley Unified School District is taking to give the mascot a makeover.

The Arab mascot has existed since the 1920s to recognize the desert region's reliance on date farming, a traditionally Middle Eastern crop. Over the years, the mascot evolved from a turban-wearing horseman carrying a lance to a standing figure with a scowl and a traditional head covering.

It came under fire last November when the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee sent a letter to the school district complaining that the mascot was stereotypical.

The district refused to change the school's "Arabs" nickname, but it agreed to redesign the Arab face on the school logo.

The district submitted five designs to the civil rights group last spring, and the group has favored a design depicting a stoic man with a neatly trimmed beard. His face is partially covered in shadow and he's wearing a white headscarf emblazoned with the high school's initial, "CV."

"We passed it around to experts and community members," committee spokesman Abed Ayoub said. "We took our time to get the opinion of that logo, and it was overwhelmingly positive."

The school's current logo of the snarling mascot is still on the school's welcome sign, the school website and a large mural on the campus gym.

The school district said in a statement that it soon will make a joint announcement with anti-discrimination group to discuss a final resolution to the mascot controversy.

"We hope that those witnessing our collaboration will follow our lead and keep their eyes, ears and hearts open to the feelings of others," the statement said.

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