Protesters outside Freeburg Community High School recently fought to convince the school to change its mascot name. The incident hit close to home for one Bethalto area teen, Rodger Jennings III, who also says the mascot name, the Mighty Midgets, is offensive.
ALTON — The Little People of America organization, LPA, would like Freeburg Community High School to change its mascot … and local teen Rodger Jennings III could not agree more.
On July 16, the Freeburg School Board met to discuss whether or not they should change their mascot from the Mighty Midgets to another name some may find more appropriate. In the end, the decision was made to leave the name unchanged.
The minority group says people over the years have felt that the phrase was disrespectful to little people and could lead to problems such as bullying.
They cite a recent case of a California teenager buying a T-shirt with the Mighty Midgets logo because he thought it was funny.
Johnnie Dickerson-Jennings is the stepmother of Rodger Jennings III, 13, and describes him as smart, funny, proud and handsome. The family lives in Bethalto, and while her older daughters attend school in the Bethalto School District, Rodger goes to an Alton school. Both school teams play Freeburg, so they are exposed to the school mascot logo on a regular basis.
“My children would not proudly stand up and play against a team like that because their brother is a little person, and they don’t feel it’s appropriate,” Johnnie said.
The mother attended the Freeburg School Board meeting in hopes of helping others realize the mascot is “not an appropriate choice in this day and age.” She says she was disappointed with the outcome.
“It was like a roast,” Johnnie said. “Everyone was able to get up and speak their piece, but it was just joke after joke after joke. No one talked to us, and after the news crews had left, there was no vote, and we were told that there would be.”
She says the board members also mentioned they had already decided the previous month to keep the mascot without a vote at all. Johnnie says she will continue to protest and to reach out to others for support.
“The bullying has gotten worse because now they know who we are by name, and they’re naming him, calling him stupid and ignorant,” she said.
Most schools have a no-bullying policy, but victims as well as their parents often wonder how effective those policies are. Johnnie said people at the meeting treated her family as if they were making too much of the situation and minimizing the impact.
The Jennings family will host a motorcycle and car wash, sponsored by the LPA, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at the Cellar Room, 2708 E. Broadway, Alton. The public is encouraged to attend, support the cause and learn more about little people and dwarfism — a chance to eradicate stigmas and see people for who they are.
“Think with your heart,” Rodger’s father, Rodger Jennings II, said. “The word is offensive. You can’t control how other people see things, and they’re creating a mockery of the situation, which affects everyone else.”
For information, visit www.lpaonline.org/for-parents-and-teachers.