A California school district will work with a civil rights group and a committee to change the appearance of the controversial “Arab” mascot at Coachella Valley High School, school administrators said Tuesday.

On Thursday, Abed Ayoub, of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, will discuss the mascot with Superintendent Darryl Adams of the Coachella Valley Unified School District. Ayoub will also tour the high school.

District officials will form the committee. A member of the local Arab-American community will serve on the committee along with the school principal, student body president, alumni association president and a parent representative. They are expected to make recommendations before the Christmas break, the Desert Sun reports. Adams will present the proposed changes to the school board, who will make the final decision.

The current version of the mascot is a scowling caricature with a huge nose, heavy beard and a traditional Arab headdress. The mascot performs at half time shows with a belly-dancing student.  ADC members are concerned about the image the name and mascot are portraying. Ayoub, the ADC Director of Legal and Policy Affairs, wrote a letter to the school district earlier this month.  “By allowing continued use of the term and imagery, you are commending and enforcing negative stereotypes of an entire ethnic group, millions of whom are citizens of this nation,” Ayoub wrote.

But students, alumni and administrators say they never meant to offend anyone. The school has used its “Arab” identity since the 1920s to honor the Middle Eastern date industry’s ties to this desert Southern California community.

School officials voted Friday to keep the name and mascot but make revisions to the image.

Other Southern California schools have mascots such as the Alhambra High School “Moors,” the Hollywood High “Sheiks,” and the Indio High “Rajas,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The ADC wants to resolve the issue in Coachella Valley before deciding how to address the other schools. 

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