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New mascot approved for Lansing’s J.W. Sexton High School

J.W. Sexton High School
Lansing School District

The Lansing School District Board of Education has approved a new mascot for J.W. Sexton High School. The school has been in a months-long process to make the change after its former mascot was seen as culturally insensitive.

The Scorpions will replace the “Big Reds” mascot. The term “reds” is often considered harmful to Native American communities and has been historically used as a racist slur against Indigenous peoples in North America.

The decision, made in July, to replace the mascot tracks with similar moves made across the country. Most recently, the Kansas State Board of Education recommended schools eliminate Native American mascots from schools. Okemos Public Schools also removed its Chiefs mascot earlier this year and opted to go as the Wolves instead.

J.W. Sexton Principal Daniel Boggan said the school had been working toward shifting away from its former mascot for the last four to five years by removing Native American artifacts. A recent boost in funding helped push the needle toward rebranding faster.

The school received an $87,500 grant from the Native American Heritage Fund in August to help update the mascot. Replacing the mascot is estimated to cost the school up to $250,000. The school can apply for another grant next year.

“I think our students and our staff want this for several reasons,” he said. “One being we are not in the business to hurt or harm anyone. We are here to help. We are here to uplift, and when we know this is something that is harming a culture and is disrespectful, we want to take care of it,” he said.

More than 2500 students, staff and community members participated in the renaming process, according to Boggan. The top four picks were J-Dubs, Scorpions, Cardinals and Big Dawgs.

The district ultimately decided against J-Dubs, Boggan said, because the board only saw it as a nickname for the school, not a mascot.

Although it was the second most popular pick in a poll, Boggan said the school is ready to embrace the Scorpions.

“We don’t want to be offensive to a culture anymore. We’ve done it for 80 plus years. We acknowledge it. We want to make change. We want to be part of the change,” he said.

School officials said the "Block S" design will stay, however the number two that appears with the S will be removed.

A final design of the new Scorpions mascot is expected to be revealed at a student pep rally before winter break and will be fully implemented at the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

“We have a lot of great ideas that I think will help in that matter as we unveil this new era of Sexton High School and [the] Sexton Scorpions,” Boggan said.

Melorie Begay is the local producer and host of Morning Edition.
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