Iron County School District’s ‘Redmen’ mascot will be left in the past

A representative for the Paiute tribe asked the school board to “move forward instead of living in the past with the nostalgia of adults.”

This Jan. 11, 2019 photo shows the mascot "Redmen" at Cedar High School in Cedar City, Utah. The southern Utah high school is getting rid of its “Redmen” mascot as it becomes the latest team to shed a Native American moniker deemed offensive to some people. (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

Despite pressure from some in the community, the Iron County School District will not resurrect the “Redmen” mascot deemed racist five years ago, and instead focus resources on improving the county’s schools.

Last month, the school board moved to put the question before voters later this year by including it on an election-year ballot. But the attorney for the district and the county said the school board doesn’t have the authority to do that, sending the board back to the drawing board.

A proposal was brought forward for the district to stage its own county-wide straw vote — including allowing students to vote — for whether to revert back to the “Redmen,” rather than the current mascot, the “Reds.”

But in a 4-3 vote Tuesday night, the board voted to keep the current “Reds” mascot.

“I just can’t, in good conscience, with everyone going against it, with the potential that even one child could be insulted, hurt, bullied by any means by reinstating this name, I can’t. I can’t do it,” said board member Megen Ralphs.

The decision seems to put to rest, at least for the time being, a disagreement that board members agreed had divided the community and pained those in the Native American community.

In 2019, a committee of students, staff and alumni formed to debate the issue voted 17-7 in favor of the change because of the racist underpinnings.

Since then, though, a new school board has been elected and the members say the decision has split the community and that restoring the mascot is the single issue they hear about from voters.

At a meeting last month, public opinion was relatively divided between those who supported restoring the mascot and those who viewed it as a racist slur.

On Tuesday, however, the audience was overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining the “Reds,” including members of the Cedar High student government who said they were proud of the current name and asked that the board not go back to the old mascot.

Tamra Borchardt-Slayton, the chairperson of the tribal council for the Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah, sent a letter to the board saying it would be “abhorrent” to bring back the mascot and asked the board to “move forward instead of living in the past with the nostalgia of adults.”

But Iron County resident Andrea Nelson alleged that those behind the move to change the name “are funded and supported by the far-left ideology people of this country … supported by George Soros and other far-left ideological money.”

She said that it had been “debunked” that such names are harmful to anyone.

Many on the school board agreed and wanted residents of the county to be able to weigh in.

“This isn’t just going to die without having a vote of the public,” said school board member Jeff Corry, who campaigned on the issue. “Everyone knows how I feel. It’s a pretty prideful name, is what it is.”

But board member Stephanie Hill said that the district has bigger issues and resources should not be spent on a non-binding straw election. One teacher, she said, had told her that 47% of the students were considered homeless. Hill said that the constituents who had contacted her were overwhelmingly in support of going back to the “Redmen” mascot.

“I want to make this clear: My interest is not in a mascot or in a name,” Hill said. “My interest is in bridging the socioeconomic gap and finding ways to celebrate in those classrooms.”