General William J. Palmer High School
General William J. Palmer High School is a secondary school located in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado. The school has a student population of approximately 2,000 students, and attracts enrollment from all over the city. The flagship high school of School District 11, Palmer has the oldest International Baccalaureate (IB) program in the area, founded in 1991. The school was originally called Colorado Springs High, but was changed to its current name in 1959; Palmer being the founder of Colorado Springs. The school was one of the first cases were school officials agreed to change the school's mascot owing to its use of negative Native American stereotypes.
Backstory and Context
In 1945, student Don Willis, designed the caricature Eaglebeak, which depicted an unflattering "primitive" Native American that mirrored many existing stereotypes. The school selected Eaglebeak and adopted the nickname "Terrors," replacing their current mascot which was a pitbull. The mascot came under fire in 1985 when local residents criticized the mascot as a racist caricature. Defenders of the caricature believed that the mascot could not be racist because the student who created the image had Native American heritage. One of the earliest controversies regarding a Native American mascot at a high school in the United States seemed to be settled when the school agreed to change the mascot. The school kept the nickname and experimented with a variety of mascots, to include an attempt to use the Tasmanian devil cartoon from Warner Brothers. When it became clear that this would violated the studio's copyright, the school searched for another icon.
In the early 1990s the high school chose an eagle as its mascot and named it "Eaglebeak." In 2016 senior Doe Schall led a group of students from the school's Gay-Straight-Trans Alliance in a campaign to create gender-inclusive bathrooms in response to the discrimination experienced by transgender students. Palmer was the first high school in Southern Colorado to have gender-inclusive bathrooms.
The school's website offers a slightly different interpretation of the mascot controversy:
Notable students and alumni include:
Lance Armstrong (graduated elsewhere)
Reggie Jackson- basketball player for the Detroit Pistons of the NBA
Cassandra Peterson- TV cult legend, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark
Chris Fowler- host of ESPN's College Gameday
- "Student's art battle winds up unifying", Mark Arnest, The Gazette (May 20, 2005)
- "Class dismissed: Planned Parenthood ejected from District 11 schools", deYoanna, Michael, The Independent (February 24, 2005)
- Victor Skinner (March 8, 2016). "Colorado school installs 'gender-inclusive' bathroom".
- John Stirling Fischer (1939). A Builder of the West: The Life of William Jackson Palmer. Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers.