The Freeburg Board of Education on Thursday night decided to keep its longtime mascot — the Midgets — even as the Little People of America group urged the district to change the name.
“Once a Midget, always a Midget,” Board Secretary Kim Towers said after the meeting, when reached by phone. “Our community is happy to be Midgets, and that’s where it’s at.”
Towers said that there was no vote on whether to change the name. Rather, she and Superintendent Andrew Lehman said the seven-member board decided unanimously that it would stay.
The high school chose the mascot decades ago after a David-and-Goliath basketball game where Freeburg came out on top. Legend has it that it was a local sportswriter who dubbed the squad “The Midgets.”
In recent years, the name has been more controversial. In 2013, the Huffington Post said the Midget name was among the “most tasteless” mascots in America.
This year, at its convention in St. Louis, the Little People of America, a 6,500-member group representing people born with dwarfism, announced that it would deliver a petition to the district urging it to drop the mascot.
The group considers the term offensive. Lehman said it’s not intended to be that way.
“The district’s opinion is that our use of the word is not intended in any way to be disrespectful, any kind of pejorative or anything close to that,” Lehman said. “It’s not in any way to be disparaging to any group of people.”
Lehman said that 300 to 400 people showed at the board meeting Thursday night, and the “overwhelming majority” supported keeping the name.
“The bottom line as to what happened is that we are keeping our Freeburg Midget mascot,” Towers said. “That’s the bottom line.”