Carmel High School is reconsidering its mascot in this current reckoning over racial justice. A group of current and former students at Carmel High School wants to change the mascot, a cartoon Catholic friar called Padre. This week, Carmel’s school board announced it intends to establish a committee to discuss the issue.
Emily Robinson, class of 2011, is one of more than 2,000 alumni and students who signed a petition to change the school’s mascot. The Padre reflects the Spanish history of the Carmel Mission, and some say it ignores the violent treatment of Native Americans.
Robinson said the call to change the Padre mascot is part of broader conversation going on around the country about how history is framed.
“What are the things that we have held up as icons, as sacred? Are those sacred to everyone or are they glorifying something that shouldn’t be glorified?” Robinson said.
The mascot has been part of the school for almost 80 years, and not everyone thinks changing it is a good idea. There’s a counter-petition, and many of the nearly 800 people who signed it say changing the Padre would abandon tradition for the sake of political correctness.
“To me, they’re taking away history, tradition and basically legacies,” said Mike Scardina, a graduate of the class of 1999, who started the counter-petition.
The decision to change the Carmel High School mascot, and potentially pick a new one, is ultimately up to the Carmel Unified School Board of Education. Board President Karl Pallastrini said the district is willing to explore changing the Padre mascot, but the top priority is making sure schools are able to safely reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s something that’s of importance. But clearly getting kids back and teachers back in a safe environment is job one for the district,” said Pallastrini.
The Carmel Unified School Board’s policy currently does not outline a process for changing a school’s mascot. This week, the board announced it is designing that policy and using other districts’ guidelines as a reference. The next step will be to establish a committee of students, alumni and taxpayers to hear community feedback.
But for recent grad Ella Foster, community discussion isn’t enough.
“What I would like to see is eventually for it to change,” Foster said. “I don’t think there’s another solution really.”
The conversation around the Padre mascot has sparked a discussion about Carmel’s history. Symbols of Spanish influence are visible throughout the city, from the iconic mission to streets named after Father Junipero Serra, a Spanish Catholic priest. Over the past month, some Junipero Serra monuments in California have been pulled down.
Bill Schrier, a social studies teacher at Carmel High, says he plans to use the mascot to ask students deeper questions about community identity.
“Asking them to wonder… why do you think Carmel High chose the Padre? What does it mean to us now? What might it mean to other people?”
Kylie Yeatman, class of 2020, said seeing anti-racism protests and calls to dismantle Confederate statues around the country have inspired her peers to call for change in their own community.
“People have realized we should have the freedom to voice our opinion, even if it’s something that’s relatively small. It’s not small in our lives,” she says.
The Padre mascot has been questioned before. But this is the first time so many people have spoken up. The school board indicated it will look at the issue, but hasn’t set a timeline. So Padre will keep his job for now, but no one knows for how long.