Teton High School needs a new mascot.
The Teton School District 401 Board of Trustees voted to “retire” the Driggs, Idaho, school’s Redskins mascot in a late-night vote Tuesday.
At the end of its second lengthy meeting in eight days, the board decided to begin the process of replacing the moniker.
“At some point we have to move forward,” Trustee Jake Kunz said near the end of the meeting.
The Redskins mascot — which some, including members of the region’s Shoshone-Bannock tribes, have decried as racist — has been under fire since Stephanie Crockett, whose children attended Teton High, asked the board in March to review the issue.
Opponents of the change have argued in public comments that the mascot is meant to honor Native Americans and is part of Teton Valley’s heritage. Proponents argue that the Redskins name — even though the high school no longer has someone dress up as a Native American for sporting events and assemblies — is racist, and that the term is grounded in cultural subjugation of indigenous people.
Versions of those same arguments were made in the school board’s Tuesday meeting, which featured several hours of working group sessions. People from both sides formed small groups, and trustees cycled through them, each asking a specific question.
“What single piece of information do you think the board needs to make this decision?” Trustee Ben Kearsley asked.
In addition to the arguments made in previous meetings, people on both sides of the issue raised a new concern: what the board’s plan would be in removing or maintaining the mascot.
The debate has divided the community, many commenters said, and no matter the outcome they wanted to know how healing could be facilitated.
When the board finished the working session and sat to discuss the issue among itself, its primary point of discussion was how the process would move forward. Kearsley advocated at least one more meeting to make a “plan for the plan” before voting on the mascot itself, but Kunz and Trustee Nan Pugh argued that the board couldn’t form a plan if it didn’t know the end goal.
Finally, Trustee Mary Mello raised a motion to remove the name “Redskins” and mandate a “slow, respectful process that includes all stakeholders” and doesn’t use taxpayer money to cover the costs of the change, which will include replacing some sports teams’ uniforms, among other things.
After some discussion and a long pause, the board voted, with Mello, Kunz, Pugh and Chairwoman Chris Isaacson voting to remove the name and Kearsley voting no, arguing that the process should be extended.
Those who voted to remove it cited the local tribes’ opinion as one of the reasons. Randy’L Teton, the tribes’ public affairs director, told the Jackson Hole Daily that the tribes wouldn’t have a comment on the decision until later in the week.
Immediately following the vote, well over 100 people with the group Save the Redskins rose and left the meeting. Trustees repeatedly pledged to create a removal process that respected the group’s concerns, namely that the history of both pioneer settlers and Native Americans in the valley would be forgotten. However, members of the group felt the process was too fast and that student voices in support of the mascot were not factored into the final decision.
“I think there was an across-the-board majority in support. We don’t want to lose everything, our symbol, the meaning behind it,” Save the Redskins organizer Tracy Tonks said. “Right now I’m mostly upset about the students who feel disregarded.”