DRIGGS, Idaho (AP) — The top administrator at an eastern Idaho high school is standing behind his decision to drop the school’s Redskins nickname, but for now is putting on hold plans to swap out team uniforms and remove logos and signs.
Teton County School District 401 Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme announced his decision to drop the nickname earlier this week after getting support from the school board.
Woolstenhulme said he wanted to show respect for American Indians, teach students to look beyond skin color, and respond to efforts nationwide to change names with tribal references.
But the decision has generated public outcry and criticism in and beyond the resort town of Driggs, prompting Woolstenhulme to schedule a public forum next month and consult with local tribal leaders.
“The decision is made, but we are taking time to listen to (patrons) before we implement the decision,” Woolstenhulme said. “I knew there would be passionate response to this, but not this large, this much or this fast.”
School officials say they have received comments from more than 100 people this week, some in favor and some opposed.
At least one critic created a Facebook page called “Save the Redskins” that had more than 1,230 members from around the country as of Friday. Foes also launched an online petition on Change.org to keep the Redskins mascot.
“We demand Mr. Woolstenhulme cease and desist any destruction of school property involving the Redskins mascot … until a public school board meeting can be held to address this issue with full public input,” the petition states.
Woolstenhulme vows to also seek the opinion of leaders of the Shoshone-Bannock Indian Tribes in Fort Hall, in the state’s southeastern corner.
“Feedback from the Shoshone-Bannock will be key because they are the voice of the tribes closest to the Teton Valley,” he said.
Earlier this week, Woolstenhulme said his decision to change the school name also came as part of a national discussion on the appropriate nature of tribal names for sports teams.
Last month, 10 members of Congress sent letters to the owner of the Washington Redskins of the NFL and the league commissioner urging the team to change the name. The letter to team owner Daniel Snyder said Native Americans “consider the ‘R-word’ a racial, derogatory slur akin to the ‘N-word’ among African Americans.”
Snyder has vowed he will never change the nickname. On Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded to the congressional pressure, calling the Redskins nickname a “unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.”