Teton School board chair Chris Isaacson said this week that if the school board were to place a Redskins mascot discussion on an official district meeting agenda, the desire would need to come from students, school staff, community members and business leaders in the community.
In March, community member Stephanie Crockett urged the school board to reconsider changing the Teton High School mascot during a public comment period at a regular school board meeting.
“Maybe we think it’s not hurting anybody,” said Crockett at the meeting. “I don’t honestly think the students and faculty feel that they are being offensive. I just think there is my daughter’s future — will she want to work for a corporation owned by a tribal member or will someone wanting to hire her look at her yearbook photo and say, ‘There she is in war paint — will she be the best candidate to represent my diverse clients?’”
Victor resident Dale Sharkey responded to Crockett’s call for change. In a letter to the editor dated March 17 in the Teton Valley News, Sharkey wrote, “No one alive today invented racism. It’s not our responsibility to perpetuate it. It’s our work to end it. It’s okay to admit folks before us made mistakes, but we must decide if we want to continue being racist or if we want to stop racism.”
She posted a call to action on Facebook on March 26 for residents to contact the school chair and request that the mascot discussion be added to the April 8 meeting agenda. This week Sharkey said she knew of a handful of people who told her they had made contact with the school board asking to revisit the mascot discussion.
Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme and Isaacson set the monthly agendas. Both said the mascot discussion would not be on the April agenda.
“We are very sensitive to the community and our process has always been inclusive of the community’s input, from creating the strategic plan, holding Eggs and Education Breakfasts, and convening focus groups in regard to the bond, to mention a few,” Isaacson wrote in an email to the Teton Valley News on Tuesday.
Isaacson explained that while the school board takes public comment seriously, that does not mean the board follows up with action at the very next meeting.
“In this particular instance, given what happened five years ago when the mascot change was discussed, the school board would like to hear from and have involvement from the community, businesses, and most importantly the students and staff of our high school before proceeding,” she added. “A community member may make a request for an agenda item but it is the superintendent’s and board chair’s decision to include it on the agenda.”
Sharkey said she respects the school board chair’s approach particularly as it pertains to student and staff engagement.
“I have a lot of respect for her saying that students and faculty should be first to raise the issue. I would love to see it come from them, but as a community member it’s hard for me to see that word thrown around when I see it as a racial slur,” she said.
Sharkey said that she would continue to request that the mascot discussion be placed on the school board’s agenda. She added that she regretted her inaction five years ago when Woolstenhulme first attempted to change the Redskins mascot.
“I should have been there to support him,” Sharkey said of Woolstenhulme. She hoped that students and staff would consider the mascot issue and, “do something about it.”
As for her motivation, “I feel like it’s my responsibility right now to do my part to end racism on a local level. I can’t watch it go on around me and know it’s not OK.”
She said that a lot of people know how to vote, but don’t know how to create change in between those voting cycles. She admits that she’s not sure how to create change herself, but she’s willing to start somewhere, anywhere.
“I’m ready,” she said.