Kansas school districts find changing offensive mascots costs money

Kansas offensive mascots

High schools in Shawnee Mission and Wichita have recently changed their mascots, retiring long-time names that traded on American Indian heritage. Above, the word "Redskins" on Wichita North High's basketball court will be painted over after the district dropped the controversial name. Photo credit Suzanne Perez/Kansas News Service.

By Suzanne Perez 

What does it cost a school district to change an offensive mascot?

Some Kansas schools are starting to find out.

Wichita school board members voted in February to get rid of the controversial Redskins mascot at North High School.

They learned recently that replacing athletic uniforms, painting over a gym floor and retrofitting the marching band could cost upward of $400,000.

Renderings of North High’s new baseball uniforms. Image courtesy USD 259.

The board approved the first phase of expenditures in March, voting to spend $350,000 on new uniforms for the football, baseball and softball teams and other student activities.

Terrell Davis, executive director of public affairs and special projects for the Wichita district, led a committee that recommended changing North’s mascot.

He said removing the Redskins name from school uniforms and property will take time. The old mascot — in either words or images — appears on debate team blazers, bowling team jerseys, swimming pool flags, scoreboards and more.

“We did an evaluation of all the uniforms they had to see where the term ‘Redskin’ was on,” Davis said. “And so to remove those things is what we’re working towards.

“We also looked at where people were at in terms of their normal rotation of uniforms,” he said.

Buying lots of uniforms at once resulted in some discounts, Davis said. Spending approved in March also included a new wrestling mat.

A new gymnasium built as part of the Wichita district’s 2008 bond issue features North High’s new logo in the center — a red-and-white letter “N” with a Native American drum and feather. But stripes on either end of the basketball court say “Redskins” in large letters.

As part of the mascot changes, those words will be painted over and the floor named in honor of Lynette Woodard, a North High graduate and basketball Hall-of-Famer.

People are not mascots sign in front of Center for Academic Achievement
A new policy adopted by the SMSD school board this year prompted th retiring of four schools’ mascots that made reference to Native Americans, including SM North High. Above, earlier this year a sign stood outside the district’s Center for Academic Achievement advocating for the policy change. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

The Shawnee Mission school district in Johnson County approved a new policy in January barring mascots deemed derogatory or offensive.

To comply with the policy, Shawnee Mission North High and three elementary schools dropped mascots that referenced Native Americans. Shawnee Mission North announced earlier this month that it would replace its former “Indians” mascot with “Bison.”

District spokesman David A. Smith said the district is beginning to develop logos and branding for the new mascots but doesn’t yet have projected costs for the overhaul.

Sheril Logan, a member of the Wichita school district, said during a recent meeting that the cost of new uniforms, equipment and renovations are necessary.

“We want to make sure we remove all of the places where that name is,” Logan said.

Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT or email her at perez@kmuw.org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

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