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San Diego high school rebrands name and mascot, deemed not representative of community

The San Diego Unified School Board approved changing the Junipero Serra Conquistadors to Canyon Hills Rattlers.

SAN DIEGO — Two of the students behind the social movement share their motives and how they were successfully able to get the school board to unanimously approve the change.

"During the summer there were a lot of movements for racial equality and we decided it was a perfect time to use the momentum from that," said Charlotte Taila, a Junior and petition organizer.  

That momentum and support from the community helped in getting Junipero Serra High School in Tierrasanta renamed "Canyon Hills High School."

 "I guess a lot of people wanted a name that is more inclusive of the community," said Annie Do, Junior and petition organizer. 

The change came about after three students including Annie Do and Charlotte Taila petitioned the school district to re-brand their school, saying the 18th-century missionary, Serra, was cruel to the indigenous people and a controversial figure today and not representative of the community.

"This school is a school that is open to all religions, so it is inappropriate to have us named after a canonized catholic saint because we are not a catholic high school," said Do.

The school's mascot, a conquistador will be changed to a rattlesnake. 

Do and Taila say we should not be glorifying Spanish conquistadors who killed many indigenous people trying to conquer their lands.

"They obviously brought a lot of disease to the native Americans and enslaved them and forced them to work in mines for the Spaniards like Serra [and] were very hurtful to the native Americans," said Taila.

After 9 months of polling the community, students and staff, the renaming board at San Diego unified unanimously decided to supported the change on Tuesday.

Those against the re-branding say the name and mascot were part of history and school memories over the past 45 years.

The principal says the decision wasn't taken lightly. 

"And people don't want things to change," said Dr. Erica Renfree, Principal. "And this doesn't mean history will be erased, it will still be honored, but in a different way."

"We have an alumni room, which is a very big room which will be turning into a legacy room with graduating classes and collages and Brown and gold," said Renfree.

Brown and gold will now be red and black, colors that the tribal communities endorsed and would work for athletics as well.

The school plans on having the re-branding done for the start of the 2021 school year.

Credit: San Diego Unified
San Diego High School rebrands from Serra to Canyon Hills

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