Sanford, Mountain Valley school districts in full compliance with SB21-116

Left, Sanford’s new mascot is the Mustangs and rigiht, Mountain Valley’s is the Wolves. Both schools were the Indians for several years but both changed to be in compliance with SB21-116.

ALAMOSAEditor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on compliance with SB21-116. The series concludes on Wednesday.

Just more than a year ago, a new law passed by the Colorado State Legislature and signed by Gov. Jared Polis marked a big change for a few high schools within the state.

The passage of SB21-116 prohibits the use of American Indian mascots by public schools, including charter and institute charter schools, and public institutions of higher education. The act imposes a fine of $25,000 per month for each month that a public school continues to use a mascot after such date.

Two local school districts, the Sanford School District No. 6J and the Mountain Valley School District No. RE-1, had previously used Indians as a mascot. But both districts were able to comply with the new law by the due date.

Both school district superintendents said that it took a lot of work to remove all native imagery from the school property.

“We had to remove anything native American in resemblance,” said Sanford superintendent Kevin Edgar. “That included removing artwork, murals, taking the Indian off our gym floors, marquees, and scoreboards. We had a stain glass Indian light in the front entrance that we removed and we also removed pictures. It also required us to change out all our athletic uniforms and we had a ceramic Indian on the top of building that was about 30 inches around made by an artist in Pueblo. We had a lot of Indian heads that had to be removed off pads at the end of the gym and on volleyball standards and goal posts. Our cafeteria had a big inlay on the floor that had to be removed. Not only that we had to come back with our new mascot. We also had to take the Indian off of our busses.”

“We are just completing the last of our issues in removing the final logo on the outside of our gym,” said Mountain Valley superintendent Jeff Bollinger. “I’m new to the district so I don’t know all that was done, but I do know that we had to remove the logos on the basketball floor and other multiple areas. There were uniform changes and on stationery.”

The change also proved to be quite expensive for both districts.

“I don’t have the totals all yet because we just removed some of them and haven’t replaced them yet, but I’m predicting it will be between $150,000-200,000 before it’s all done,” Edgar said.

“I don’t know the exact amount,” Bollinger said. “But I would estimate that there was an excess of $50,000.”

Replacing the Sanford Indian mascot will be the Mustangs.

“We started out with listening sessions between our community and students as to understand why we had to change our mascot,” Edgar said. “We started getting ideas for a new mascot. We took the ideas for the new mascot and narrowed it some more, but we still had probably 30 or 40 ideas. Then we started putting surveys out where students and the community could vote. After several surveys through several months in the fall we narrowed down to two – the Mustangs and the Wolves. We put it out to a final vote and the Mustangs won.

“Then we had to go through the process coming up with a logo and working with people online,” Edgar added. “Finally we got an artist from Canon City who came up with something that we liked. The time dedicated to this was enormous. My hours a superintendent that I dedicated to it and the leadership teams and the survey time. Just an enormous amount of time.”

Mountain Valley has changed its mascot to the Wolves.

“I wasn’t a part of the process, but I know there were a lot of meetings with faculty, students and the community to come up with ideas and narrowed it down to the Wolves,” Bollinger said. “I don’t know how exactly it all came down, but the comment came down that we’re glad not to use the time this year on concentrating on changing logos. I would make the point that the money spent on making the changes were money that didn’t go to students. There was no auxiliary money from the state.”

Both superintendents said that their mascot changes were not popular with the students and community but they eventually decided there was nothing that could be done about it.

“Nobody liked the change,” Edgar said. “However, the older students had a more difficult time with the change. But after a while, the student body started to embrace the change once they realized that they don’t have a choice in the matter. As time went on, the students were really good and I commend them for their willingness to support the change.

“The community on the other hand probably struggled a little bit more with the change because they were die-hard Sanford Indian fans,” Edgar added. That’s very understandable, but once they too realize that it’s the law now and there would be fines. At first it was difficult, but as the year went on, the community began to embrace the change. When we voted, the community overwhelmingly voted for the Mustangs. At first it was difficult for everyone, but as the year went on everyone was really supportive and I appreciate that.”

“When I was here for my interview for this position, I talked to a few students,” Bollinger said. “The reaction was mixed. They didn’t like changing their logo and the mascot, but it was at a point where there was nothing they could do about it so they were looking forward to moving ahead on what they were doing.”

Other schools make the mascot change

Several other school districts did make the change in their mascots.

Nearby La Veta changed from the Redskins to the Redhawks last year. Montrose changed from the Indians to the Redhawks. Cheyenne Mountain changed from Indians to Red-Tail Hawks, Loveland changed from Indians to Red Wolves, and Lamar changed from the Savages to the Thunder to name a few. Yuma dropped the Indians mascot and has no mascot at this time.

Some schools were able to keep the Indian mascot after maintaining an agreement with a tribe. Such schools were Kiowa and Strasburg.

Arapahoe and Central Grand Junction were able to keep the Warriors mascot but removed native American Imagery. Eaton also kept the Reds mascot but it too removed the native imagery.


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