After being banished from campus seven years ago, a devil mascot could return to Mission Viejo High School, in one form or another.
Students, faculty, staff and administrators will vote for a new mascot logo on Sept. 22, capping a year of debate and controversy that recently sparked a lawsuit by a group of parents.
Among the five mascot candidates are a Tasmanian devil cartoon character, a fierce devil dog and another devilish figure. Also on the ballot will be a fire-snorting long-horn steer and a mythological Minotaur creature.
In the days leading up to the election, which school officials hope will foster unity and spirit, teachers will offer lessons and educational films about the history of voting rights and the democratic process.
"We're turning the issue into an educational opportunity," said Terry Sheppard, chairman of a 13-member campus committee charged by Saddleback Valley Unified School District officials with handling the mascot issue. "We feel that's as important as dealing with the (mascot) issue. It carries over into the lives of every student when it comes to other elections."
Although Mission Viejo High School's nickname is the Diablos, meaning devils in Spanish, school administrators banned a popular, grim-faced devil mascot in 1986 after receiving complaints from parents and community members with fundamentalist Christian beliefs.
Later in 1986, the student body voted to change the school's mascot to a bulldog, but kept the Diablos nickname.
Students, however, said the bulldog mascot never became popular, and some started wearing unauthorized devil logos on caps and T-shirts last year. Principal Robert Metz and other school officials asked students to remove or cover the devil image.
In April, district officials ruled that forcing students to cover or remove the devil logo could violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and said students had the right to wear the logo.
However, a group of seven students and their parents claimed school officials continued to ban the logo and filed a lawsuit against the district and high school alleging civil rights violations.
Meanwhile, a committee of students, teachers, staff and parents have been working all summer to develop the election process, said Sheppard, a teacher.
Voting will take place at various times during the day on Sept. 22 for any student or school employee who wants to cast a ballot, Sheppard said.
A simple majority will be needed for a winner. The League of Women Voters will monitor the election and tabulate the votes, Sheppard said.
"We're aware that however the votes fall, there will probably be dissatisfaction," Sheppard said. "We have tried to do the process above reproach."
The election committee hired graphic artists this summer to create drawings for the mascot candidates, which were voted on by the committee from a larger pool of ideas submitted by students last spring.