After more than 50 years as the Indians, Aptakisic Junior High in Buffalo Grove is changing its mascot to increase cultural sensitivity and boost school spirit, officials said.
The school, part of Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary District 102, announced last week that starting in the fall the junior high's mascot will be the Eagles, the first change since the school opened in the 1950s, Principal Jessica McIntyre said.
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Although McIntyre said the change was not driven by any particular complaint or request, the underlying idea of being more politically correct has led schools to change mascots across the country in recent years.
Mascots have been an issue at the collegiate level with schools, including the University of Illinois and Bradley University, retiring or changing their Native American themed mascots or team nicknames in recent years. Naperville Central High School dropped its Redskins nickname in 1992 in favor of Redhawks, and Huntley High School traded Redskins for Red Raiders in 2002.
Those changes met with significant opposition and controversy, something that has not surfaced at Aptakisic Junior High.
"We did not have any sort of impetus from the community or anything like at other schools," District 102 Superintendent Theresa Dunkin said. "It was more of a grass-roots change from the students."
The school board looked at the mascot issue in November 2010, but didn't feel the need to make a change at that point, Dunkin said. In December 2011, however, several students and staff members approached the administration looking for a change.
McIntyre said there was not a singular image of the Indian being used by Aptakisic, and that while the name appears on sports banners and gym uniforms, it was nowhere else in the school, making it hard for students to connect to the mascot and rally around it.
"Students didn't feel connected to the Indian, but wanted to make sure we honored it," she said. "The name Aptakisic still honors it, but the kids are conscious of the need to be politically correct and appropriate, so that was a concern."
The school's name honors Chief Aptakisic of the Potawatomi tribe, which lived in the area more than 200 years ago.
Students and staff were involved in the decision-making process, and the Eagle mascot was chosen through a studentwide vote that also included the Alligators or the Lightning.
"(Eagles is) a neat analogy, spreading their wings and soaring to success in high school," McIntyre said. "It's also very patriotic, like the Stevenson High School Patriots, where most of our students will go."
Students also are involved with how the Eagle will look and are competing to design the new image. The winner will work with a professional graphic artist to finalize the design, which will be implemented by the time students return in the fall.
Because the Indian mascot had such a small presence in the school, MacIntyre said the cost to replace it will be minimal. She's hoping the new mascot will have a larger presence, perhaps through murals or other images around the school.
Retires: Cost to switch mascots will be minimal, principal says