Hays Middle School to become Indians


Tiger Media Network

USD 489 Board of Education approved the change of the middle school mascot to the Indians in a 5-2 vote at Monday’s board meeting.

During public comment, Anna Towns again spoke against the changing of the mascot. Towns referenced a study by a University of Michigan professor that detailed the detrimental effects of Native American mascots. 

“The use of native mascots increases suicidal ideation and depression among Native Americans,” Towns said. 

Towns went on to say that the use of these mascots leads to increases in stereotyping and dehumanizing of native people.

“If our goal is truly to be for every student, then we can’t do things that we know are harmful,” Towns said. 

Cheryl Duffy also spoke out against the mascot. Duffy cited the Kansas Board of Education’s recommendation to remove Indian mascots within the next three to five years. Currently, 24 Kansas High Schools still have native mascots, Hays USD 489 included. 

“I think it’s time to change the mascot, in fact, it’s past time to make this change,” Duffy said. 

Later in the meeting, the board discussed the middle school mascot. Superintendent Ron Wilson reminded the board of two separate surveys regarding the mascot. 

One survey, sent in December 2022, asked questions about the high school mascot and had over 590 respondents. One of the questions specifically asked about uniting the middle school and high school mascots. Another survey was sent out last week to Hays Middle School faculty. The results of those surveys were provided to board members but were not in the agenda packet at https://go.boarddocs.com/ks/usd489/Board.nsf/vpublic?open

Board member Jayme Goetz said she reviewed the surveys in preparation for this meeting and was disappointed with the responses on the December 2022 community survey. 

“I was disgusted and had to stop reading after about 300 because of the level of not only ignorance, but immaturity in these responses,” Goetz said. 

Goetz said she hopes the community has grown since then. Goetz also made it clear that the discussion at the meeting was not about changing the high school mascot, but rather about unity as a district and whether the middle and high school mascots should be the same. 

“Based on these survey results, and based on the overwhelming support I have received, I think it would be in favor to proceed as one entity, as one mascot,” Goetz said. 

Board member Ruth Ruder pointed out that even though the high school is still the Indians, after the community discussions, the district has gotten rid of all human depictions of Indians and transitioned to an arrowhead logo. Ruder is in favor of changing the middle school mascot.

“One unit, one unity, one campus,” Ruder said. 

Board Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp said the overwhelming majority of survey respondents wanted a unified mascot, however, some of those respondents only want a unified mascot if the unified mascot is not the Indians.

“Understanding historical, generational trauma imposed upon peoples who were here before we were is very important,”  Zampieri-Lillpopp said.

In the middle school staff survey, she said a number of people commented that it felt inappropriate to bring this topic up again.

“There is no new information,” Zampieri-Lillpopp said. “And when the board has made a decision, even if it’s a previous board and you don’t like it, it’s typical and appropriate to revisit that if there’s new information, but there wasn’t.”

Ruder said the previous board vote was 3-3. Goetz asked why the vote was split if most of the survey responses favored unifying. Zampieri-Lillpopp said they did not have the staff survey at that time. 

Board Member Allen Park said the previous vote and discussion focused primarily on the high school mascot and colors and this vote deals with the middle school specifically. The board has spent two meetings and a session discussing this topic and he feels like they are in a position to make a decision.

Jayme Goetz motioned to change the middle school mascot to the Indians. The motion passed 5-2 with Zampieri-Lillpop and Board Member Ken Brooks voting against.

During this meeting, the board also:

  • Accepted a bid from ACM for the removal of asbestos this summer at Hays Middle School and O’Loughlin Elementary at the cost of not to exceed $55,600.00
  • Approved Business Services Department Restructure
  • Approved non-resident student enrollment capacity

The next board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on May 13 in the Rockwell Administration building.