Utah school says it won't change controversial Phoenix mascot because it was picked by students — but it actually was third choice after ‘Fascists’


If it were up to Farmington High School’s future students, the new school’s mascot would be the Fascists or the Farts. Those two write-in options generated the most votes from students on a Davis School District survey, according to records obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

Seeing neither of those options as feasible, the district decided instead to go with the students’ top choice within the survey: the Phoenix.

But that name continues to stir its own criticism. Farmington Mayor Jim Talbot has joined a group of concerned parents and community members who say that proposed symbol for the city’s new high school isn’t going to work, either.

“This mascot has come under crude jokes both locally and on the national scene, claiming the plural pronunciation sounds like ‘male anatomy,’” Talbot wrote in the city’s monthly newsletter.

That’s why he’s calling for the district to bypass student suggestions altogether to make the mascot the Eagles — the choice an “overwhelming number” of community members wanted in the survey.

“It is our duty as responsible leaders to protect our students in all we do and listen to residents’ feedback,” Talbot wrote in the newsletter. “I’m sure they will agree that we want our students to start with pride in their school. This includes the mascot, an important part of the spirit and pride of any high school.”

Chris Williams, a spokesman for Davis School District, said the process for open submissions led to some “inappropriate” suggestions.

“Certainly the ‘Fascists’ and the ‘Farts’ are not going to be something that is going to be a mascot,” he said.

However, he noted there will be no move to consider changing the final mascot decision — a point Farmington High School Principal Richard Swanson also reiterated in a letter sent to parents this week.

“The students have chosen a valid mascot,” Swanson wrote. “… I stand behind the decision that I accepted from the students as their incoming principal to this amazing school. I can assure all parents after having been around high school students for many years, that students and fans from the opposing teams have always found ways to make negative cheers for their opponent.”

Farmington resident Kyle Fraughton first raised concerns about the Phoenix mascot choice in November, when he launched an online petition asking the district to rethink its choice.

“When you tell me that the kids were asked to vote and their top votes were ‘Farts’ and ‘Fascists,’ do you think that they’re not going to play around with the name ‘Phoenix’ or ‘Phoenices’?” he told the Tribune. “It’s easy. It’s a funny name.”

Fraughton said he believes the symbol will make it too easy for would-be hecklers and opposing schools to mock Farmington High and bully its students. Besides, he said, the top vote shows students weren’t taking the choice seriously.

“I’m not a prude,” Fraughton said, noting that he believes the media have unfairly cast him that way since the story went national. “We’re all realistic. The reason we want it changed is because we all look at that from a non-prude lens and say, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s hilarious. And that’s going to be a problem.’”

As of Wednesday morning, Fraughton’s petition had generated more than 3,200 signatures. But amid a swell of opposition and the national media attention, he said the district’s decision not to reconsider the choice shows its unwillingness to hear its constituents.

“They know what’s right,” he said. “And this seems to me more that they’ve been embarrassed by this and they’re trying to act like this [ridicule] didn’t happen and it won’t ever happen.”

But Williams said the district has spent “all sorts of time in multiple conversations” with Fraughton and others trying to resolve his concerns. He noted it has also received an “overwhelming positive response” for the Phoenix decision throughout the process.

It would have been up to the Davis Board of Education to review the school’s mascot. But with no plans to do so in sight, the school’s future principal said he hopes the issue can be put to rest.

“My attention will no longer be used to comment more on this decision,” Swanson wrote in his letter to parents. “We will now turn to creating a school with a 21st Century educational environment that is like nothing that has ever existed before in our state. We will be as strong and invincible as the mascot of the Phoenix that we’ll represent. We are the ‘Home of the Phoenix.’”

Farmington High School is currently under construction and is expected to open this fall. When it does, the word “Phoenix” will remain singular and not pluralized.