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'This is a necessary change', J.W. Sexton High School will rebrand to 'new culturally appropriate mascot'

J.W. Sexton High School in Lansing
Posted at 12:02 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 16:14:11-04

LANSING, Mich. — The Native American Heritage Fund said that the Lansing School District will be rebranding J.W. Sexton High School's mascot from the Big Reds to a new mascot.

“This will be a complete reboot of the Sexton brand,” said superintendent Ben Shuldiner. “This is a very exciting opportunity to include our school district family and come together to create something really terrific we all will be proud of in the future.”

"We've known for quite a while, of course, we've seen other schools, sports teams and national sports teams, who had Native American mascots, change their mascots," Lansing School District Board of Education President Gabrielle Lawrence said. "We've known that the writing's on the wall, the Sexton mascot would need to change."

Lawrence was a graduate of Sexton High School in 2000 and understands this will be a big change.

"The times that I've said, Go Big Reds, or should have been a Big Red, number probably in the 10s of 1000s," Lawrence said. "So it will be a big change for me personally, and I know for the community, in a larger sense, but this is a necessary change. It's a good change."

The school district applied for the grant from the Native American Heritage fund and was awarded $87,500 to change the mascot "to a new culturally appropriate mascot and logo."

However, this isn't the first time the district changed a mascot. Riddle Elementary School was formerly the "Little Reds" but was changed last summer.

"They're now the Riddle Rhinos, which kind of pays homage to Jolly the baby rhino who was born at Potter Park Zoo," Lawrence said.

Lawrence said the district wants to make sure all students feel welcome in every Lansing School District school.

"We have more than 300 students with Native American ancestry, who are enrolled in our district," she said. "We don't ever want to create an environment for those students, where they feel like they're being made fun of or they're being excluded."

Alumni, community members and current students will have the opportunity to weigh in on the new mascot in community feedback forums. Lawrence said she hasn't seen a date as to when those will go out just yet.

"We will solicit and receive as much community feedback as possible, whether that's from community members who are just interested in the process, or graduates like myself, or current staff or students, we really want to hear from everybody," Lawrence said. "We want this to be a very collaborative process."

Lawrence said they hope the process moves quickly and wants to have a decision made by the fall.

“Sexton is ready for a change,” said Sexton principal Dan Boggan. “We have an aggressive rebranding schedule, and we plan to have a complete new Sexton look in place in 2023.”

The Native American Heritage Fund has been awarding schools across the state with grants to change mascots and logos since 2018.

The fund previously gave a $213,000 grant to Okemos School District to change the mascot from the Chieftains to the Wolves.

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