After a marathon meeting that featured over four hours of public comment and nearly two hours of board discussion on a single issue — whether to change the Teton High School Redskins mascot — the Teton School District 401 Board of Trustees decided it wasn’t ready to make the final call.
“I think we have to hit pause. We’ve been here a long time,” board member Jake Kunz said around 11:15 p.m. “My one question is: What information are we still trying to see?”
Roughly 60 people stood up in a comment session that was so long the board excused everyone for a 5-minute intermission. The crowd of nearly 200 people didn’t quite fill the Teton High auditorium in Driggs, Idaho, but it came close, and those that spoke were split between keeping and changing the mascot.
As several school board members noted, many of the arguments made echoed the talking points that have populated Facebook comment threads, emails to the board and community forums in the past few months. Those who oppose changing the mascot — many with deep familial roots in Teton Valley — pointed to their heritage and the intention they inferred about the adoption of the mascot in the first place. They said it was out of honor and respect for Native Americans because of the close ties developed between them and the valley’s early settlers.
Those advocating the name change, who include members of the local Shoshone-Bannock tribes, said that Native Americans don’t feel honored by the use of Redskins as a mascot and view it as a racist term with detrimental historical context.
In light of the complicated issue, the board set a working session at 6 p.m. July 16. The board added a stipulation that it is able to vote on the matter at the working session even though it won’t be a regularly scheduled board meeting. All the board members except for Ben Kearsley, who was hesitant to rush the process, seemed intent on settling the issue at next week’s session, or at least having the option to.
“I’m in favor of that we need to make a decision,” Kunz said. “I think we need to make a decision very soon.”
Read more in Wednesday’s Jackson Hole News&Guide.