BELOIT - A group of Hononegah Community High School students started a petition to remove the district's Native American mascot and logo, while another petition started in response to the student's actions wants to keep the symbols.
The petition was filed to Change.org by a group of students called "Hononegah SDS" and says that by removing the current mascot and logo, the district could take "steps towards achieving its own mission statement" of creating a "safe and inspiring atmosphere where students become thoughtful scholars, responsible citizens, and effective leaders."
"Regardless of our school's original intention of honoring Native history - something supposedly accomplished with Native iconography not even historically accurate to our region - the students and community in Rockton need to come together to address this antiquated representation of school spirit," the student petition says. "Removal of such mascots has already been called for by our national government almost two decades ago."
As of 7:30 a.m. on Friday, the petition has 1,332 signatures.
The petition looking to keep the logo and mascot has 7,663 signatures as of 7:30 a.m. on Friday.
"The Indian mascot is not a misrepresentation of their people and their culture," the petition said. "It's more of an homage to the colorful history of this town we live in and deserves to be kept that way. Any other interpretation of the Indian mascot is misconceived."
Hononegah Superintendent Michael Dugan said the district would monitor the situation, but stressed that any official discussion of the issue would need to be brought from the student body to the school's student council representative that sits on the school board.
"We respect the opinions of everyone in our community," Dugan said.
Hononegah Board of Education President David Kurlinkus said no official discussion of the issue was planned by the school board.
In response to criticsm received about the initial petition, Kurlinkus said it would be "hypocritical" to not allow the students room to express their beliefs. "It's part of the educational process to express opinions and start a dialogue," Kurlinkus said. "These issues are important to large numbers of people. We have to allow our stakeholders to express their opinions. That's what we are there for."
In his 25 years on the school board, Kurlinkus said the issue of the school's mascot and logo had never come up until now.
"Twenty years ago it might not have taken this form," Kurlinkus said. "The internet and social media have changed everything when you touch on an issue like this. This brings an emotionally-charged atmosphere and people feel strongly about it one way or the other and it's our job as the board to be a sounding board for that."
Rockton Village Board President Dale Adams said he disagrees that the mascot and logo are derogatory.
"I don't agree with that. I think it's more of a historical thing honoring Rockton's history," Adams said.
Adams declined to comment further but said "it's the district's decision to make" on making any changes to school iconography.