FREEBURG, Ill. – Officials of the Freeburg Community High School District 77 say the school will keep its “Midgets” mascot.
About 500 people gathered at the school late Thursday to urge the school board not to dump the mascot.
The Little People of America, a national group that represents people with dwarfism, has asked Freeburg and a half-dozen other schools nationwide to drop what they consider an offensive reference.
The name for the Freeburg school was coined nearly 100 years ago by a local newspaper reporter after watching the school’s short basketball team beating larger opponents.
Among those attending the meeting was Rodger Jennings Jr., of Bethalto, whose son has dwarfism. He said schools are supposed to protect children and be “bully-free.”
Supporters of the nickname told the board their intent wasn’t to hurt anyone by using “Midgets” as a mascot.
“It’s tradition,” Mary McGraw, a resident who wore a t-shirt that read “Don’t Mess with the Midget” told the Belleville (Ill.) News Democrat.
“We’re not here to make fun of small people,” McGraw said. “I would have never realized how important (the mascot) was to so many people until just now when you see all these people. When someone messes with something like tradition, you decide something’s worth fighting for instead of letting it go.”
But Megan Sabourin, a little person from St. Louis who grew up near Freeburg told the newspaper after the meeting. “I’m hurt at the fact that they don’t see (the nickname) as something negative. I’m hurt by the fact that we were in this community and we heard derogatory, disrespectful terms at the microphone.”