LANSING – The Lansing School District Board of Education will reconsider its decision earlier this month to approve Scorpions as J.W. Sexton High School’s new mascot after community members raised concerns.
The Board of Education selected Scorpions to replace Big Reds as the school’s mascot at a Nov. 10 meeting. Trustees unanimously selected Scorpions over J-Dubbs, the leading vote-getter among students.
Several community members criticized trustees for picking the runner-up over the clear favorite among students at their meeting on Nov. 17.
“I ask you to all second-guess what you’ve already done and make it right. There’s no problem in doing that,” Michael Lynn Jr., a Sexton graduate and Lansing activist, told the board Nov. 17. “There’s no problem in saying, ‘You know what? We might have made a mistake here.’ There’s no problem in stating that and moving forward correctly.”
Trustees voted to revisit the mascot selection at the next board meeting at 6 p.m. on Dec. 1.
The final student ranking included J-Dubbs, Scorpions, Cardinals and Big Dawgs. The Nov. 17 meeting grew heated as board President Gabrielle Lawrence argued with Lynn Jr. and Joy Gleason, an entrepreneur and Greater Lansing Area Destination Tours owner, before having them both removed.
Gleason questioned the purpose of weeks spent gathering student, alumni and community input on the selection of a new mascot just for board members to ignore the most popular selection.
“You could have been forthright in what you were going to do,” she said. “Instead, there was a smoke and mirrors game that lasted for weeks that pulled at the heartstrings of the children and the alumni and the concerned citizens of the Sexton community.”
Board Vice President Rachel Willis previously said that regardless of the board’s decision the high school will continue to be known as “J-Dubb Sexton.”
She pushed back against the inference that the board ignored students and picked the mascot they preferred.
“Nobody on this board came up with the name Scorpions, the name Scorpions was presented to this board,” Willis said. “It may not have been the top choice, but it absolutely came from the voice of the students and was presented to this board.”
She said she would be open to reconsidering the mascot selection if there was more information to review that the board had not previously reviewed.
Student support for J-Dubbs as the new mascot was clear in the final vote, Sexton Principal Dan Boggan told trustees earlier this month, with a “fairly large split” between the top choice, J-Dubbs, and the second-most popular, Scorpions.
Once a mascot is finalized, it will replace Big Reds as the school’s moniker. Members of the Native American and Sexton communities for years have called the former mascot derogatory toward Native Americans.
The school district announced on July 7 plans to retire Big Reds and begin searching for a new mascot.
An $87,500 grant from the Native American Heritage Fund is supporting the mascot change and future rebranding. The Native American Heritage Fund helps fund projects aimed at eliminating insensitive school mascots, while honoring Native American culture and history.
The rebranding will cost about $250,000, according to previous estimates Boggan provided. District officials have committed to covering any leftover costs not covered by the grant.
Officials additionally said they planned to apply for a second Native American Heritage Fund grant in 2023.
Shortly after trustees had voted to approve Scorpions as the new mascot, Lawrence said they hoped to have a new logo selected before winter break, which begins Dec. 26, with the final mascot and logo being unveiled at a future pep rally.
District officials hoped to have both the mascot and logo fully introduced by the start of the 2023-24 school year.
Sexton has been known as the Big Reds since the school first opened in 1943 in what was then Central High School. The logo has evolved since then, changing from a Native American wearing a headdress to a red block “S” with a 2 in the top right corner in 2014.
Contact Mark Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.