Gar-Field High School in Prince William County will retire its Indians mascot and select a new one for the next school year, the school announced Monday.
Principal Matthew Mathison announced the change in an email to the school community and said it had been requested by student leaders.
"Gar-Field High School represents a diverse school community which not only accepts but celebrates the many cultures represented by our families," he wrote. "Our students are extremely proud of our diversity and learn so much about the world through the cultures of their classmates and teachers. I am proud that it has been our students who are demonstrating their commitment to Gar-Field by taking leadership on this matter."
Mathison said he also had heard from many alumni and community members expressing support for a change.
Gar-Field, located on Smoketown Road in the Woodbridge area of Prince William, opened in 1953 as the successor to Occoquan District High School, Mathison wrote. At that time, the school adopted the Indians mascot as well, which had been used by Occoquan.
"It is important to note that the intent of Gar-Field High School has never been to disrespect or disparage Native Americans or their cultures," Mathison wrote.
Similar to other county schools that have undergone mascot changes in recent years, Gar-Field will solicit student and community input and form a selection committee comprised of representatives from various stakeholder groups, Mathison said. "Connection to Gar-Field history and traditions will be a very important factor in the selection process."
Costs of the mascot change will be covered by Prince William County Public Schools, Mathison said.
"I understand the prospect of any change can evoke a wide array of feelings and varied reactions," he added. " All of us who have ever been fortunate to have attended or worked at Gar-Field know our identity is more than our mascot. .. I am very hopeful this process will be an opportunity to bring our community closer together. I call on all members of the Gar-Field community to remain united as we seek to select a mascot which fully reflects our values of inclusiveness, respect, and being champions for others."