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SMSD Board of Education approves new mascot policy

SMSD NEW.jpg
Posted at 8:54 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 23:39:29-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Indians and Braves mascots in the Shawnee Mission School District no longer comply with school policy.

The SMSD Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to implement a new policy that states its mascots should “represent a school in a positive manner and benefit school unity and pride.”

Mascots also:

  • Must not be derogatory or offensive, or make reference to a protected class of people.
  • Must be culturally and racially sensitive.
  • Must depict fairness, dignity and respect.
  • Must not counter the district’s mission “of creating a fully unified, equitable and inclusive culture.”

As a result, Shawnee Mission North High School, Rushton and Shawanoe elementary schools and Belinder Elementary School mascots — Indians and Braves, respectively — must go. And that’s a change that has one Shawnee Mission North alumna's approval.

Alisha Vincent, who graduated in 1995, said her sixth-grade daughter, husband and “attorneys, psychologists, educators and tribal members” have made their voices heard over the past month.

“This is not a recent desire for change, by the way, following a Black Lives Matter summer of activism, nor is it about political correctness, as continues to be misportrayed,” Vincent said. “As a board, you surely know at this point if you did not know before that there have been people in this community working towards more inclusive indigenous recognition for decades long before the 25 years ago that I stepped foot into Shawnee Mission North.”

Mascots that do not meet the new requirements will be retired. Principals of schools that do not meet the new requirements will lead the process for choosing a new mascot. Students will provide input, as well as “other school community members as appropriate,” according to the policy. Superintendent Mike Fulton will have final approval over the decision.

Fulton, who will retire in July, said they plan to have new mascots selected by the end of the school year, but implementation of the mascots could take some time.

Kate Raglow, co-chair of the Roeland Park Racial Equity Ad Hoc Committee, spoke in favor of the policy change.

“We recognize that the Shawnee tribe has made their voice heard. And we're proud to stand with them, and the belief that people and ethnicities — ethnicities are not mascots,” Raglow said. “They are communities with rich and diverse histories to be celebrated, not made into characters to be used as logos.”

However, some residents opposed the move, citing a lack of education without such mascots and calling their removal “a modern-day Manifest Destiny.”

“I ask you to educate, not eradicate,” Emmit Monslow said. “Don't let Indians be forgotten. And there is a difference between Indian imagery and the Ku Klux Klan. And you are treating these images as the same as the swastika. Some of your biggest fans have shown support in your cause, white-supremacist Neo Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. It baffles me. It baffles me that you and your views here today align with those organizations. So I asked you to think about who you're aligning with when you're trying to eradicate Indians.”

The full policy can be read online.