Feb 22, 2023

Hays High to remain Indians, Hays Middle will not become Indians

Posted Feb 22, 2023 4:10 PM
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post
Photo by James Bell/Hays Post

Hays Post

The Hays USD 489 school board agreed Monday night to keep the Hays High Indian mascot.

A motion to change the Hays Middle School mascot to the Indians failed. However, a motion passed that would make the HHS middle and high school colors consistent. Both schools also will be using "brave and true" from the high school's alma mater for their new motto.

The discussion on both of the schools' mascots has been ongoing for several months. The district has passed a bond issue that will include building a new high school and renovating the current high school into a middle school. 

Superintendent Ron Wilson asked the board to consider what branding it wanted for the new schools. The district conducted a survey, had a public meeting and formed a committee to consider the schools' mascots.

Although some members of the community and the rebranding committee said they thought the Indian mascot is hurtful and racist, more than 90 percent of survey respondents said they wanted to keep the Indian mascot.

Superintendent Ron Wilson made several recommendations to the school board on Monday. They included:

• Hays High remains the Indians
• Hays Middle School transitions to the Indians by August 2026, when the middle school is set to occupy its new space at the former high school
• The graphics department with DLR, the district's bond architect, will develop a new Indian logo that does not include a human depiction of a Native American
• A legacy committee would be created to decide what current logos and images no longer meet the standards of the school or district logos or mascots
• The district will create a style guide. All future official uses of school logos and colors would have to conform to that style guide and be approved by the administration.

Board member Curt Vajnar said as a coach and teacher neither he nor his students ever misrepresented the Indian mascot. He said he was very supportive of using "brave and true" as the high school's new motto.

Board member Allen Park also said as a parent, teacher and coach he also never saw the Indian mascot dishonored.

Board member Tammy Wellbrock said she appreciated the district had the discussion at this point because it is going to have blank walls and a blank slate at the new high school.

"I think sometimes we forget in society that dialogue in itself is not dangerous, asking questions don't have to be harmful, but certainly this has been a polarizing topic," she said.

She added she hopes people don't look at the issue as having winners and losers. 

"We want all of our students to be winners, but that is not because of their mascot," she said.

 Board president Craig Pallister said the strong pride the community expressed in the Indian mascot convinced him to keep the mascot.

"We have images that are racist. We have images that are hurtful," he said. "Our speaker said I won't have had some of those in my building or any building."

Pallister said he supported Wilson's recommendations that would have those images ultimately eliminated. 

"We needed to make some big changes if we were going to keep the Indians," Pallister said.

He said he hopes the district doesn't have to revisit the issue in the next several years. The Kansas School Board has already recommended all Kansas public schools eliminate Native American mascots within the next five years.

"We need to do what is right for our community, but not cause harm to others," Pallister said.

He said he did not support adding the Indian mascot at the middle school.

Board member Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp, who has been outspoken against the Indian mascot, said she hopes Hays students will one day know all the four tribes that landed in this area.

She also said she did not support expanding the Indian mascot to the middle school.

Wilson said more than 80 percent of survey respondents said they wanted the middle school and high school to have the same mascot.

Bruce Rupp, HMS athletic director, said the district could save money if it didn't have to change the gym floor and wall pads to a different logo or colors.

He also said he thought carrying the same mascot through both schools would create more unity among students and coaches.

"We are going to be one big campus. Why don't we be one mascot with one color and a lot more unity," he said.