BV-area board member only vote against Native American mascot recommendation

A sign showing the Shawnee Mission North High School Indian mascot

Blue Valley-area representative Michelle Dombrosky was the only Kansas State Board of Education member to vote against a recommendation asking the state's public school districts to eliminate Native American mascots. File photo.

The Kansas State Board of Education endorsed a recommendation asking the state’s public school districts to eliminate Native American mascots and branding.

Driving the news: The board on Thursday voted to approve the recommendation, with board member Michelle Dombrosky, who represents the Blue Valley area, the only one to oppose the motion.

  • Board members Jean Clifford and Ben Jones abstained from the vote, while the seven other members voted in favor of the recommendation.

The recommendation: With the vote, the board is making a “strong recommendation” that Kansas public K-12 nontribal schools retire Native American-themed mascots and branding as soon as possible, but at least within the next three to five years.

  • The move came after an advisory group, which included representatives from the four federally recognized tribes in Kansas, found the mascots to be harmful toward the roughly 10,000 American Indian/Alaska Native students who attend public schools in Kansas.
  • Board members in support of the measure noted this is only a recommendation and the final decision on mascots was left to each local school board.

Dombrosky’s reasoning: During the meeting, Dombrosky said she voted against the motion because she believed this to not be a state board issue, and that local school districts should make the choice.

  • “They have pride, they have traditions, they’re not going to understand,” Dombrosky said.” It’s going to take awhile for education, curriculum that you’re working on. You’re building that. Since it’s a strong recommendation on that part, I’m not sure why we’re taking a vote at the state board. I’m not sure why we’re taking a vote at the state board because 10 people are deciding for the rest of those communities.”
  • Instead, she recommended local communities take on this issue individually, and that those who seek changes to mascots should work to build relationships with local boards and school patrons to promote education about the mascots and branding.
  • Board member Ann Mah pushed back against Dombrosky, saying it was important for the board to take a stand and that this recommendation was not deciding anything for anyone, but encouraging districts to start a discussion about the matter.
Shawnee Mission Native American mascots
Three Shawnee Mission elementary schools, including Rushton Elementary, have new mascots that no longer reference Native Americans.

Local mascot changes in Johnson County

Three Kansas school districts have recently eliminated Native American mascots, including the Shawnee Mission School District.

  • In 2021, three of the district’s elementary schools selected new mascots, dropping old mascots that referenced Native Americans.
  • Shawnee Mission North also became the home of the Bison after dropping its long-time Indian mascot, in response to a petition by a group of alumni to change it.