A southern Illinois high school will keep the nickname Freeburg Midgets for their mascot, despite objections by a group representing people with dwarfism.
The nickname was coined nearly 100 hundred years ago by a reporter who was impressed when the school’s short basketball team beat taller opponents.
On July 8, Little People of America presented the school with a 4,400-signature petition urging the school to phase out the name within the next two years, according to the Guardian.
“We recognize that it’s not intended to have a negative impact,” Little People of America President Gary Arnold said.
“But with all the history and baggage that comes with the word, it still does. It sends a signal to youth that the use of the word ‘midget’ to describe a small person is acceptable and humorous,” he said.
Megan Sabourin, a St Louis woman with dwarfism who grew up near Freeburg, was in attendance at the Little People of America’s meeting.
“I’m hurt at the fact that they don’t see it as something negative. I’m hurt by the fact that we were in this community and we heard derogatory, disrespectful terms at the microphone,” Sabourin said.
Another supporter of the petition, Robert Jennings Jr., whose son has dwarfism, said it’s his job as a parent to protect his child.
“Schools have been made as a public organization. They’re supposed to protect our children, they’re not supposed to offend anybody, they’re supposed to be bully-free,” Jennings said.
Despite these claims, supporters of the moniker claimed they did not intend to offend anyone. Superintendent Andrew Lehman explained that the name is a source of pride and tradition for the small town.
“People’s perspective on what is a good mascot or a bad mascot, that’s a subjective issue,” Lehman said. “The name stuck. The town liked it. It ought to be the decision of the people who run the school.”