Printed on: July 10, 2013

Teton schools delaying ditching mascot

By NATE SUNDERLAND
nsunderland@postregister.com

Teton School District 401 will not drop its Redskins mascot before next summer, Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme said Tuesday.

Woolstenhulme said he needs more time to work with school administrators and patrons on the transition. He also doesn't want to make the switch mid-school year.

But he reaffirmed that District 401 will ditch its near-century old mascot, despite community backlash since last month's announcement.

"(There is no scenario) I can see where it stays, but I can't predict the future ...," Woolstenhulme said. "Right now I still believe it's the right decision to make, but allowing community input ... is an important part of the process."

Initially, Woolstenhulme made the decision because he felt the Redskins mascot was offensive to Native Americans. His position was bolstered by the support of Shoshone-Bannock tribal leaders.

School officials met with Fort Hall tribal leaders July 1.

In a written statement, Nathan Small, chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council, applauded the decision. He said the term "redskins" is disrespectful to all Native Americans.

"We feel it's culturally insensitive to title Native American peoples 'redskins,'" tribal spokeswoman Randy'L Teton said. "Sixty years ago it wasn't a big issue, but today it is ... offensive and a stereotype."

Despite tribal support, Woolstenhulme still faces major opposition to the change.

A Save the Redskins Facebook page has 1,279 followers. An online petition to save the mascot on Change.org had collected 628 signatures by Tuesday.

Nearly 170 residents attended a three-hour public hearing on the issue Monday. Of the 67 people who testified, only three supported the mascot change and two more were neutral, according to a Teton Valley News report.

Most supporters cited school pride, tradition and heritage as reasons to retain the mascot.

No immediate changes will be made to uniforms, school murals or signs depicting the Redskins name or mascot.

Sports teams also will continue to play as the Teton High School Redskins for the entire 2013-14 school year.

"This is on hold right now," Woolstenhulme said. "The next step is getting feedback from school principals and organizing committees to look and study the mascot issue."