Last Friday 11 students, the majority of whom were freshman, gathered in front of Teton High School in protest of a potential name change of the mascot. More students would wander into the group adding to the walk-out numbers as the event progressed.
This walk-out was different from the one that occurred on May 6, said senior Aspen Redden at the event. This time, student organizers sought permission from Principal Samuel Zogg prior to the event who in turn scheduled the walk-out to coincide with Advocacy class, a class that is reserved for additional study time outside of core credit classes.
Redden said she organized a second walkout because the first was “unorganized” and “sloppy.” She said she was also motivated to organize another walk-out in response to what she called cyber-bullying.
“I’m not sure who, but some of the things they’re saying is that we’re racist [and] that it takes guts to expose your racism,” Redden said of what has been said on social media platforms. She said that because she and others support the Redskin mascot did not make them racist.
“We’re showing that we honor being called Redskins, that we believe in being Redskins. It’s just uncalled for,” she said of social media comments.
In April, the Teton School board members decided to add the Teton High School mascot discussion to the July 8 meeting agenda and reserved the high school auditorium in anticipation of a large public showing.
School board chair Chris Isaacson said in the April meeting that the issue of the high school mascot needed to be resolved before the November school board elections after she had pervious called for student, school staff and community engage to bring the mascot discussion forward.
Public discussions around the mascot have become heated with strong opinions to keep and or change the mascot that was established 1929. This week, Teton School Board member Nan Pugh called for civil discourse around mascot discussions (see page A4 of this week’s Teton Valley News).
Last Friday students reflected some of those opinions which light up social media, carrying signs that read, “If we can’t stand with the Redskins, what can we stand for?” and “Redskins are more than a mascot, it’s our history,”
“My grandfather actually helped establish Driggs, so I’m kind of fighting for our history,” said high school freshman Bridgette Clemens during the walk-out. “And this hasn’t really been a problem as I’ve grown up. I think its people from the city who are moving in. They want to change it because they have a different point of view.”
And just like social media, the students were met with mixed reactions.
As the group moved from outside on the front lawn to the corner of the parking lot entrance they chanted, “Teton Redskins” to passersby and cars. The chants received mixed reactions from people driving by the school. Some people were positive as they honked their horns, waving, or even cheering along. Some countered with shutting their car windows, completely ignoring them or giving the students the middle finger.
When the bell rang, the group participating in the walk-out began to form inside the foyer of the school. They carried posters and a flag Joan Durtschi made in 1998 that has a history of being used at football games in past years. Some students wore stickers that read, “Save the Teton Redskins.” The stickers were a product produced and ordered by the social media group Save the Redskins.
Redden said her younger sister Shelby and other students helped to spread the news of the walkout through social media, texting, and word of mouth. Alumnus Libby Parsons, who graduated in 2012, read about the students performing another walkout through the closed Facebook page called Save the Redskins.
Parsons came to support the students as they stood in front of the school and on the corner of the street. Parsons said as a student, she supported her brothers and was the statistician for the football and wrestling teams.