After months of community efforts to change Shawnee Mission North’s Indian mascot, including an online petition that has roughly 3,300 signatures, the Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education this week announced its policy committee will review language from other districts regarding mascots.
Back in July, a group of SM North community members — including alumni, parents, teachers and students — began a petition to change the Indian mascot by the school’s 100th anniversary in 2022. A counter-petition aimed at keeping the mascot was also launched and has more than 2,300 signatures.
At that time, district leaders put off the issue, saying they needed to focus on managing reopening school during the COVID-19 pandemic and that they would revisit the mascot issue at a later date.
At Monday’s regular board meeting, Shawnee Mission West area board member Laura Guy said she’s glad to see movement on the issue — and apologized for the delay.
“Those who asked us to consider changing the mascot have waited a long time and have been very gracious in letting us deal with the emergency situation that’s been in front of us,” Guy said, referring to the pandemic, which continues to strain the district’s resources.
“I, too, am very glad that the policy committee is going to be looking at this. I’m sorry that it took us as a district this long, I’m glad we’re finally addressing it,” she said.
On Monday, the board heard from several people during public comments who urged movement on changing the mascot. The speakers included Lisa Patterson Kinsey, mother to two SM North graduates, who offered to lead fundraising efforts to help with the cost of changing a mascot.
Carina White, a 2014 SM North graduate, said there aren’t “two equally reasonable sides” on the issue.
On one side, she said, there is “continued implementation of actively oppressive stereotypes” and on the other there is “growth and better care for our fellow human beings.”
Other alumni, like 2010 graduate Melissa Arroyo, spoke to their experiences both at SM North and after graduating.
“I felt a huge sense of pride for being a ‘SMN Indian,’ and now, 10 years later, I am fully aware that I was complicit in the oppression and mockery of Native Americans and their culture,” Arroyo said.
While no one at the meeting spoke in favor of keeping the mascot, a petition supporting the current mascot says, among other things, that “Cultural Appropriation is Cultural appreciation.”
The counter-petition was written by 2012 North alumnus Emmitt Monslow, who identifies as Native American.
“It’s discouraging to see these white, liberal women who are trying to cancel the mascot because they have some savior complex where they think they need to speak up for the Native American community,” Monslow told the Post in an interview earlier this year.
The district’s policy committee meets once a month, including on Dec. 3.
Sara Goodburn, SM North area board member who sits on the committee, said she anticipates there will need to be a study of other districts’ policies and that the committee might be able to propose language by the board’s regular meeting in January, 2021.