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Petition asks Eugene school to make mascot gender neutral

South Eugene High School has been the home of the Axemen for almost 90 years.
South Eugene High School logo

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — A Eugene school is considering doing away with its mascot after it was presented with a petition asking the school to change it to something gender neutral.

South Eugene High School has been the home of the Axemen for almost 90 years, the Register-Guard reported.

In an email sent Tuesday to families and community members, Principal Andy Dey said there has been an ongoing community discussion about changing the school's team name which resulted in a petition that garnered hundreds of signatures from students, parents, teachers, coaches and community members.

While the petitioners are passionate about the change, Dey said others have adamantly disagreed with the idea.

Dey plans to hold several meetings to discuss the matter with school and district leadership after students return to school from winter break Jan. 3.

"We find the request for a change to be compelling, and one that shall receive full attention from the school's leadership," he wrote. "The superintendent has expressed support for moving forward in conversation with the faculty, student groups and the school's Site Council."

Eugene School Board members also welcome the discussion.

The mascot's origin can be traced back to a 20th century club at the high school known for their annual group photo which featured members holding an axe, Dey said in the email. The members became known as "the men of the axe" and later shortened to "axemen."

Dey acknowledges that sports and the country have changed since the school's team named was adopted in the early 1930s. Today, girls and women are allowed to play on sports teams and language and terminology used in the U.S. has also changed.

"Use of nongendered terminology (chairperson, firefighter, police officer, etc.) is now standard, while the use of male-specific pronouns to refer generically to all people is no longer a universally accepted social norm," Dey said.

He expects to send a recommendation to Eugene School District Superintendent Gustavo Balderas by the end of January.