In response to protests, a Southern California high school is changing its Arab mascot's appearance but keeping its name.
Coachella Valley Unified Superintended Darryl Adams said he's optimistic the school will keep the name of the mascot, which appears as a sneering man with a scraggly beard, hooked nose and a headscarf.
The district will consider changing how the mascot looks, Adams told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
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Critics contend the sneering symbol represents negative stereotypes, but Adams said that was never the intent.
"At no time was the mascot for CV High School meant to denigrate, but it was meant to honor and to celebrate Arab culture and the Middle Eastern connection with the community," Adams said.
The controversy began when a community member of Coachella Valley High School in Coachella, Calif., located just east of Palm Springs, brought the mascot to the attention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.
After gathering opinions from the Arab-American community, many felt the mascot was demeaning and the group decided to act, said Abed A. Ayoub, the group's director of legal and policy affairs.
Ayoub wrote a letter to the district on Nov. 1 saying that cartoons, mugs and T-shirts of the mascot around the campus were examples of stereotyping, and should not be tolerated.
"This is a very sensitive conversation," Ayoub told NBC4 last week. "An overwhelming number of individuals thought it was offensive."
Ayoub said that his ultimate hope is that the district moves away from the stereotypical image.
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