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News >  K-12 education

Change of name, mascots approved at three Spokane schools in light of concerns

UPDATED: Fri., May 14, 2021

Students and a Spokane Public Schools administration member pause in the North Central High School hallway around the statue of a Native American male figure that served as the school’s mascot during the Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of in-person classes March 1. The school will now be changing its mascot.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Students and a Spokane Public Schools administration member pause in the North Central High School hallway around the statue of a Native American male figure that served as the school’s mascot during the Pledge of Allegiance on the first day of in-person classes March 1. The school will now be changing its mascot. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

The Spokane Public Schools board made it official Wednesday night: The North Central Indians mascot will soon be retired.

Also by a unanimous vote, the board approved a name change at Sheridan Elementary and new mascot to replace the Chiefs at Garry Middle School.

The changes at NC and Sheridan had been in the works since last year, with widespread school and community support for both.

While some could argue that a new state law would have banned the NC and Garry mascots anyway, board President Jerrall Haynes didn’t see it that way.

Haynes noted that it was NC student Ivy Pete who spoke on behalf of a bill prohibiting the use of Native American mascots in public schools.

“A significant part of that law came from our part of the state,” Haynes said. “It could be that the state law could still be the same if it weren’t for our students at North Central, taking charge of this issue and saying that this isn’t right and that this needs to change.”

In all three cases, the district will move forward with students, staff and community members to find a new name or mascot.

The timetable for the changes is uncertain.

According to the new law, NC and Garry have until the end of 2021 to choose new mascots.

“We are also awaiting guidance from the State Superintendent’s Office of Public Instruction on a timeline to apply for a grant funds to reimburse the School District for required changes,” Associate Superintendent Mark Anderson said Thursday in an email.

These changes would include the removal of old symbols from gym floors, reader boards and other surfaces.

It’s also unclear what will happen to the logo at Garry Middle School, which includes hands clasped over a ring, superimposed over an arrowhead.

Wednesday’s meeting drew two comments defending the logo.

“It symbolizes something for kids like me, pointing to a big beautiful future,” a former student told the board.

The procedure will be slightly different at Sheridan. The district will solicit new names from patrons, then form a screening committee to review the suggestions and recommend three finalists for board approval.

Earlier in the meeting, the board heard comments from about two dozen people on proposed names for its three new middle schools.

Reflective of the results of a public poll held during the next two years, most of the comments favored naming the new northeast middle school after Denny Yasuhara, a teacher and civil rights activist; and the new South Hill school after Carla Peperzak, a Dutch resistance fighter who saved dozens of Jews during the Holocaust and now lives in Spokane.

The board is scheduled to make a final decision on all four schools on May 26.

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