DRAIN — With a July 1 deadline looming, North Douglas School District is among three in Oregon at risk of losing state funds for not complying with state Native American mascot notification procedures.
The state's Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction has the right to withhold all or part of the state school funds for the district, but an amount has not yet been determined.
In 2012, the Oregon State Board of Education adopted a rule that prohibited school districts from retaining Native American mascots after July 1 of this year. School districts were allowed to keep their mascots if they entered into an agreement with a Native American tribe that met the requirements of the rule.
“(School districts) are supposed to notify us if they change that image,” said Cindy Hunt, the government and legal affairs manager for the Oregon Department of Education on Wednesday.
“That formal communication is important for them to let us know,” Hunt said. “At this point I have not received a formal notice from (NDSD) that they have adopted a new mascot.”
Last year, the school district decided not to enter into an agreement with a Native American tribe and instead opted to keep its name of the “Warriors” with no mascot, with warriors no longer referring to Native American warriors.
North Douglas School District Superintendent John Lahley disagreed that a formal notice is required. He said that nowhere does it state that a report must be filed if a mascot is eliminated. Rather, he said, the rules say that the state must be notified only if a Native American mascot will be kept and a school district is entering into an agreement with a Native American tribe.
“I am in complete compliance and I have not violated anything or jeopardized our district in any capacity because I was not required to do anything,” Lahley said.
Lahley said the school district has been busy removing all Native American imagery, painting over murals and identifications on walls, and removing any placards and items like sporting uniforms that identify with its former mascot, Willie the Warrior.
Just last week, the high school sanded its Willie the Warrior symbol off the gymnasium floor and is currently refinishing the floor as part of a $25,000 project. Removing Native American images from campus walls, letterheads and uniforms is expected to cost the school another $5,000.
“Any mascot and any reflection of Willie the Warrior has been retired,” Lahley said.
Looking at North Douglas High School's website Wednesday, Hunt said that past photos with the old mascot can still be found online, so the school has not yet successfully removed all its Native American imagery.
Hunt also referred to OAR 581-021-0047 subsection six that said, “Each school district shall notify on or before July 1, 2017, the department of education when a new mascot is adopted for the public school.”
“If (the school district) doesn’t notify us, we don’t know this,” Hunt said. “It’s required, to avoid enforcement action.”
During enforcement action, the state would visit the noncompliant school districts to see what changes have been made within the five years since the rule went into effect.
“If they are not in compliance and they are still using an image that’s a Native American ... they could face a loss of state school funds,” Hunt said. “But they have until July 1.”
Oakridge and Lebanon are the other school districts listed as not in compliance by the board of education.