Student urges high school to drop Native American mascot

A New Jersey high school student has launched a petition calling on his principal to rid the school’s mascot of all ties to Native American culture -- again.

The Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School student’s petition, which has garnered 272 signatures, does not call for a change of the team’s name -- the Raiders -- but asks that Native American symbols be removed and students no longer come to sporting events wearing Native American outfits.

“My goal is to keep the Raider name, but remove its ties from indigenous people all together,” the Change.org petition, "No Racism Starts with No Racist SPF," stated.

The school is no stranger to controversy regarding its logo. In 2004, the previous logo, a blue and white silhouette of a Native American head in full headdress, was changed after then-New Jersey Commissioner William Librera sent a letter encouraging public schools to stop using symbols depicting Native American culture.

The high school’s current symbol depicts a running figure carrying a shield with an “R” in one hand and an ax raised over its head in the other. The figure appears to have some type of headgear on and other items bearing the logo feature an arrow with a feather.

“The fact that derogatory logos are still being used, indigenous headdresses are still being culturally appropriated, and Raider Nation doesn’t want to change it is concerning,” the student, identified only as a sophomore named "Matthew S.," said in the petition.

According to NJ.com, students have been seen at games wearing feathered war bonnets and with their faces covered in war paint, as well as wearing other symbols of Native American culture.

The student’s petition has prompted responses for and against the change -- with some taking to social media to voice their take.

“So who is going to police this rule if it goes through?” one person asked in a community Facebook group, according to NJ.com

Another commenter said: "It is tradition. Nothing about the logo is [malicious] towards indigenous people.

Others, however, agreed with the petition.

“Using symbols representative of indigenous people to attribute the status of 'raider,' is perpetuating an ignorant stereotype that is racist at its core….Change the symbol to something that does not represent an entire race or culture. It's not hard,” the supporter wrote.

The student is calling on the school’s principal to take action.

“We don't support anything that would portray Native Americans in a negative fashion,” Principal David Heisey told NJ.com of the 2004logo change, adding, “it does appear from time to time.”

Heisey also said he believes the student who started the petition is “someone standing up for what they believe in.”