A bill that would ban the use of Native American mascots in Massachusetts public schools had a public hearing at the Statehouse Tuesday.
The push from two Tewksbury residents comes after Tewksbury officials rebuffed efforts last year to change the name of their Redmen mascot.
Parents Linda Thomas and Beth Cowett appealed to state lawmakers, arguing the mascots perpetuate stereotypes and harm Native Americans.
"Public schools should not be in the business of perpetuating stereotypes of minority groups," Thomas said.
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Opponents say mascots become part of a school's culture and aren't intended to be demeaning.
State Representative James Miecili said the mascot should stay because of tradition.
"If towns want to use it, they should be able to use it," he said.
Senate Bill 291 defines a Native American mascot as a "name, symbol, or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition that is used by a public school as a mascot, nickname, logo, letterhead, or team name."
The bill gives specific examples, including "Redskins," "Savages," "Indians," "Chieftains," "Braves" or "Redmen."
"The NEw England Anti-Mascot Coalition says there are currently 40 High Schools in Massachusetts using the word 'indian,' or cariations of the name, down from 43 a year ago.