A cheerleading squad at California High School is facing backlash after two pictures of them posing with an unofficial Black mascot were posted on social media.
In the photographs, members of the team can be seen posing with a Black mannequin head, which they referred to as their mascot and named Kareem. On May 21, Instagram account The Black Bay Area reposted and denounced the photographs.
“That is not something that we can accept, nor will we tolerate,” said San Ramon Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. John Malloy, according to NBC. Malloy added that he is deeply concerned by the incident, especially as the district has been expanding its on-campus sensitivity training.
“We don’t accept this. We understand that it’s wrong, and we also understand that it’s harming some members of our community more than others – especially those who may identify as Black or African-American,” Malloy added.
On campus, the incident quickly became a divisive topic. “They think it’s like a joke, or it’s funny or something like that, and they don’t realize that it actually has implications,” Aditya Sathyanarayanan, a high school senior, told NBC.
Angelica Tucker, a mother of two daughters living in the neighborhood, hopes this will lead to the team being more diverse. “It can open up their eyes to the fact that there’s no representation that looks like them on the cheerleading squad, and maybe they will be the first ones to do it,” she told NBC about her daughters.
The post published by The Black Bay Area claims the cheerleading team hasn’t had any Black cheerleaders on the team since 2019. Even then, the post says there was only one.
Today, attorneys and parents of cheer squad members are calling for the removal of Malloy, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District superintendent. On May 30, one mother and her lawyer formally demanded his removal “for his reckless perpetuation of false claims of racism and his endangerment of children,” according to KTVU.
The Dhillon Law Group of San Francisco, which is representing the cheer team, blamed a “disgruntled mother” whose Black daughter didn’t make the team for posting the photograph. The lawyers also claim the photo was digitally altered to make the mannequin look darker.
The district currently has no evidence that any of this is true, according to KTVU. The law firm, which is headed by Harmeet K. Dhillon (the former vice chairwoman of the California Republican Party), put both Malloy and principal Megan Keefer on notice for their “despicable, malicious, and damaging conduct towards innocent children.”
Malloy had issued a letter to parents, calling the unofficial mascot racist. The superintendent stood by his decision to issue the letter. “As a school district that’s committed to inclusivity, our goal is to be sure that no one feels harmed by anything that exists in our community, and this is an example of why we interrupted it,” he said, according to KTVU.