The Teton High School student newspaper made a decision just after spring break to change the publication’s name, The War Cry, in response to the growing public discussion around changing the school’s mascot.
“We thought, ‘how does the name play into the school mascot,’” said Teton High senior Ella Hundere-Dahlgren on Tuesday. “Having [the mascot issue] come up in the community, we took the time to think about how our name reflects the mascot.”
Almost a month ago, a member of the community addressed the school board at the end of a board meeting asking that the elected leaders consider taking up the issue of changing the Redskin mascot. Since then, the school board decided to take up a public discussion about the mascot (see page A3 story) while social media conversations have followed a similar vein of passionate opinions around keeping or changing the mascot at the high school.
With the school board calling for students to take the lead, the student newspaper answered.
“We all kind of took some time to hear what was going on in the community,” said junior Sadie Hicks. “This affects us. Changing our name, this was a step in the right direction.”
The student newspaper staff has whittled down a few options for a new name, but will not release the name until they go to print on Thursday, April 25. In that issue of the student newspaper, the staff will construct an editorial to explain to its readership why and how they arrived at this decision.
“We are not insisting that everyone should think the way we do,” Taryn Paradis, a senior at the newspaper, said. “We are inviting people to think about the deeper meaning of our name and how it ties into the Redskin name. It’s just an invitation to see why we are doing what we are doing.”
Veteran English teacher Susan Pence is the advisor for the class. She said that when the students approached her about changing the name, she said, “It’s your paper.” Pence informed Teton High principal Sam Zogg and Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme, and she said they supported the class’s decision.
“I have always made it clear that the kids determine the content, not me,” said Pence. “So if there is any kind of name change coming, it’s coming from them.”
The newspaper has seen a fair amount of changes through the years. Students, with research help from Linda Hansen, found that the newspaper was first printed in 1949 and was called The Chief. Through the years, the paper was renamed As the School Turns, Smoke Singles, Tribal Gossip and finally in 1996, The War Cry.
“If there was going to be a change and if it has to come from students, we knew we could make that change within the newspaper,” said Hundere-Dahlgren. “We have a voice and that voice goes out to the community. We have a powerful position and can be a driving force to make that change happen.”
The newspaper staff is aware of the challenges the community faces in working through the conversation of changing or keeping the high school mascot. Sophomore Shay Smith, a member of the student newspaper, said she has wanted to speak publicly at a school board meeting about changing the mascot, but is afraid of the community backlash.
“In fact, I told my mom I was thinking about going to the school board meeting and she was preparing me to deal with the backlash from our community. That’s weird to have that as concern,” she said.
The student newspaper staff acknowledges the nostalgic ties many in the community have to the current mascot, and understands that change can be difficult.
“We are the generation of change,” explained Smith. “So many things are changing. The fact that there are students in our high school who see why our mascot is a problem and why it’s harmful to people, I think that’s a good thing. We also realize, as a student body, that the things that are tied to our youth affect us in the long run.”
The students crinkle their noses at the thought that a decision like changing the mascot could not be entrusted to the Teton Valley youth or regulated to only those who have graduated Teton High School.
“They expect us to make decision about choosing which college to go to, but they can’t trust us to change the mascot?” countered Leslie Vasquez, member of the student newspaper staff.
For now, the power to change the name of the newspaper rests with the student staff.
“I’m a junior so after I leave, it could change back,” said Hicks. “But staying on the topic of the name of the newspaper, this is something we can do right now.”