Rep. Chad Christensen, R-Ammon, who represents Teton County, posted on his Facebook page on Tuesday that he plans on introducing a bill that would strip local school boards of their authority to change a school’s mascot.
Christensen added on his Facebook post that, “This is in response to Teton County abolishing the Redskin name. There is an agenda to destroy local heritage, so long time residents no longer have an identity and so generational traditions become extinct.”
In July 2019, the Teton School Board voted 4-1 to retire the Teton High mascot by the end of the 2020 school year. The decision was met with civil rights grievances and a robust school board election ballot that was largely split with pro-Redskin candidates and those who would honor the change.
Christensen waded into the much-heated debate in Teton County last year, attending school board meetings and rallies to “Save the Redskins” while heralding his public support on social media to maintain the 90-year-old Teton High mascot.
During that time, the Shoshone-Bannock not only advocated for Teton County to change the mascot, but launched a statewide push to eliminate all uses of Native American monikers and imagery in Idaho school districts.
When reached for comment, Randy’L Teton, Public Affairs Manager for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe did not have an immediate reaction to Christensen's proposed bill.
In a follow up email to the Teton Valley News, Christensen said that he was encouraged to bring the bill forward by Teton County constituents. He added that the bill is, "not a sure thing yet."
And while Christensen would like local governments to have the authority over local decision making, he said that changing a mascot should, "Require a vote amongst the citizenry."
The Redskin mascot first become an issue in Teton County in 2013, when Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme told the school board that he was making the decision to remove the mascot from Teton High School despite generations of his own family who had graduated from Teton High School as Redskins, himself included. The school board at the time, moved by public pressure, opened the conversation up to the greater community. In a historic meeting which filled the high school auditorium, the public showed up and loudly protested the decision. Woolstenhulme conceded at the end of the meeting, which left some school board members in tears because of the intensity of the evening.
The idea of retiring the mascot came up again in March 2019 ushering in a new debate that resulted in the retiring of the mascot.
Here’s how to reach your Teton County legislators:
Sen. Mark Harris (R): Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: (208) 332-1429 (Session Only)
Committees: State Affairs – Vice Chair, Agricultural Affairs, Health & Welfare
Rep. Marc Gibbs (R): Email: email@example.com, Phone: (208) 332-1042 (Session Only)
Committees: Resources & Conservation — Chair, Health & Welfare
Rep. Chad Christensen (R): Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Phone: (208) 332-1183 (Session Only)
Committees: Commerce & Human Resources, Health & Welfare, Local Government