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Teton High School drops Redskins as mascot

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Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 8:40 am | Updated: 12:11 pm, Thu Jun 13, 2013.

“Redskins” is no longer the mascot for Teton High School.

Citing respect and honor for Native Americans, Teton School District Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme has ordered high school administration to come up with a new mascot and to remove all references to “Redskins” immediately.

Woolstenhulme said he is directing maintenance and will start “as soon as I can get my tie off and get in the forklift” to remove references to Redskins.

“We’re going to take down the signs and the logos. Anything associated with Native Americans will be gone. So that means the high school will need to work through changing the name of the newspaper. “

He said he will not make the decision on what the new mascot will be.

“I’m not asking for board approval, it’s a decision I’m making,” Woolstenhulme said. “I recognize it’s going to bring a lot of emotion, debate and discussion. I respect that, but we’re moving forward with this change.”

Woolstenhulme said he’s been thinking about this since he started at the district four years ago.

“I’m an alumni of the high school, my family is five or six generations to this valley. Even though I appreciate the heritage and tradition of Teton High School and our school district, it has bothered me for some time that the mascot for the high school isn’t in [alignment] with a lot of the programs and initiatives that we’re working to teach, first, our students, and secondly reinforce with our staff.”

Woolstenhulme told the school board of his decision June 10. He shared his reasons with a prepared report and added comments during the meeting:

• Reinforcing the importance of respect for others, where the 3-R’s of Respect, Responsible and Ready are a focus on teaching positive social behaviors in all schools in the district.

• Honoring the Native American community in our state and nation, where acceptance of others is essential to students being successful in a diverse career and college work force.

• Empowering students to recognize others for their character, not the color of their skin, where there are no similar high school mascots designated for other demographic groups, for example “Whiteskins.”

“Or pick whatever group you want to and think about how offensive that would be if it applied to anybody else,” Woolstenhulme said.

• Selecting a mascot that can be displayed with pride throughout our high school and at other schools in our conference, without creating controversy for its potential offensiveness or appropriateness.

• Recognizing that as the flagship school of the district, Teton High School represents not only our schools, but also our community; our student athletes, teams and mascot should represent Teton in a positive and respectful manner.

“We recognize a national conversation is occurring regarding mascots with professional sports, collegiate teams and other high schools,” he said.

“Teton High School was referenced in a nationwide article about schools with the Redskins mascot. While that information surrounds the issue, this decision was made with recognition of many years of history and tradition of athletic success at Teton High School. In light of our tradition of not only athletic excellence, but also our respect for others, the decision was made to change the school mascot."

Woolstenhulme said THS’ mascot was not widely displayed and hopes the new choice will become more prominent.

“Over time, I think because of sensitivity to this issue, slowly and slowly we have been respectful of this and pushed our mascot further and further quietly behind,” he said. “It’s not something we plaster on our website. I believe that sensitivity has been under the current, but it’s my responsibility to do something about it.”

The board commended Woolstenhulme for his decision.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Doug Petersen, board chair.

Woolstenhulme said high school administration will work with students, staff, parents, alumni and the community in the fall to bring a recommendation of a new mascot for Teton High School.

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