South Washington County Schools

Park High School Terrazzo Mascot

June 18 Statement 

Over the past several months, staff at South Washington County Schools have worked to determine how and when the terrazzo emblem of the former Park High School mascot would be removed from the floor of the school. Many options for removal were considered, including requests by some alumni and community members to preserve the flooring.

Starting in March, District staff met with four contractors to evaluate the cost and process of removing the emblem. During these conversations, the District also sought to find out if the emblem could be removed intact. Since the emblem was created in terrazzo, which is made up of chips of marble and granite set in concrete, it was determined it would be impossible to remove the emblem in one piece for several reasons. First, attempting preservation would require the use of heavy machinery which would have been difficult to get into the building and could have damaged flooring. Furthermore, the additional work preservation attempts would require would make the effort cost prohibitive. Even without considering the physical limitations and cost, no contractor could guarantee they could remove the emblem intact, based on how it was constructed.

With a better understanding of the process, the District moved forward with the removal. After selecting a contractor, District staff worked to find a time that would cause the least amount of disruption for those using the buildings. During the summer months, district buildings, including Park High School, are constantly in use for a number of purposes. The space became increasingly in demand as events planned at East Ridge High School needed to be relocated due to unexpected construction in the East Ridge gym. After considering the agreements made for different events, it was determined the best time to remove the mascot emblem would be on Sunday, June 10.

During the removal process, the emblem was taken out in small pieces, which could not be reconstructed at a different location. However, small fragments of the emblem were collected and given to a local, independent Native American organization to preserve history in its proper context. The organization was given the material, with the intention that the pieces may be used to educate people on the impacts of Indian mascots.

Throughout this process, the District has been communicating with community members through emails, phone calls, website and board meeting updates, and in person meetings to keep them apprised of the process of removing the emblem. A complete rationale behind the decision, which was made in March, has been available on the District website, along with resources for the community to learn more about the negative impacts of Indian mascots on Native American populations.

South Washington County Schools remains committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive space for all of its current and future students, while honoring the alumni and their experiences.

March 15 Superintendent Statement 

I want to give you a timeline of what has transpired over the past month since we communicated we were examining the issue of the Park High School mascot emblem on the floor of the school. As you know, students at Park High School brought concerns to their administration around the cultural insensitivity of the emblem on the floor. The Park High School administration then brought the concerns to the school district’s attention. The district began to research the issue and understand how the emblem on the floor was allowed to stay after the mascot was changed to the Wolfpack. Before we had completed our research, the community learned we were examining the issue and questions and concerns regarding the emblem were raised. We addressed rumors that were circulating in February, but because of the way the information was shared, we were unable to be proactive in our planning or communication. Over the past month, we have spoken with a former student who was on the committee that recommended the mascot change, we spoke with teachers and the other staff members, we reviewed past board documents and we compiled research on the effects these mascots have on our Indigenous American Indian Students. We had not made a final decision in February, but we have now.  

As many are aware, Park High School changed its mascot from the Park Indians to the Park Wolfpack in the early 1990’s. This change was prompted by the Minnesota State Board of Education’s resolution in 1988 which stated that, “the use of mascots, emblems, or symbols depicting American Indian culture or race is unacceptable” and they encouraged all districts to immediately proceed to remove such mascots. After the decision was made to change their mascot, signs of Indians in the school were taken down and the team uniforms were changed. There were discussions that followed, which included community input about what the new mascot would be. After much discussion, they landed on the Wolfpack, which was to symbolize unity and diversity. Park High School Assistant Principal at the time, Cheryl Herzmann, was quoted in an article as saying, “There’s diversity among the pack, but there’s strength. It’s a group that gains strength from individuals.” 

The Park High School community have embraced the Wolfpack as their mascot and have continued to build upon a strong and rich history that Park alumni have held onto over the years.  

Furthermore, after our current students shed light onto the negative impact that the past mascot on the floor was having on them, we would be negligent in our commitment to creating a safe, inclusive and welcoming community for all of our students if we did not take their concerns seriously. Under federal and state law, people who make statements or wear clothing in support of a symbol that is viewed as racist and demeaning may be deemed to harbor racial animus, be racially intolerant, and may be deemed to create a hostile environment that is not conducive to learning.

In addition, in 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations. According to an article published by the APA, this position was based on a growing body of research that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people. 

Knowing the research, knowing the negative impact this symbol has on some of our students at Park High School and knowing the decision to remove this mascot was already made more than 20 years ago, the emblem should never have remained. We have also determined that the belief that there was an agreement for the emblem to stay after the mascot transition is inaccurate. Therefore, the decision has been made to remove the emblem from the floor at Park High School to support our current and future students, in alignment with our district’s mission. Although this is not an issue that would need to come before the board for a vote, I have consulted with the board and have the needed support if a vote were to be taken on this decision.

Moving forward, the district will be looking for ideas from the community on how to best celebrate the history of Park High School and its students. I will be asking the Park High School administration to put together a committee of students, staff and community members to discuss the ways in which to honor Park High School and capture the history. The community is also invited to share their ideas via the We’re Listening survey found on the District’s webpage.

While the decision has been made to remove the emblem, a formal timeline has not been established. 

February 15 School Board Statement 

Many of us have been contacted by community members after a rumor circulated that the Indian emblem on the Park High School floor may be removed over spring break. Let me first start by sharing that there are no plans for the emblem to be removed over spring break. 

However, there have been some concerns brought to our attention about the lack of cultural sensitivity around the Indian being displayed on the floor, and we are currently evaluating and researching these concerns. 

Our mission is to ensure that every student feels welcome and included when they walk through our school doors. If there is an atmosphere to the contrary, for any of our students, we are committed to looking at all possible resolutions.

Many in our community may remember when Park High School made the switch from the Park Indians to the Park Wolfpack back in the mid 90’s. There were debates on the issue at the time, but I am proud of the work that our school district did on this issue, as it was the right thing to do. In fact, we were actually ahead of the curve on this issue because in 2005, the American Psychological Association (APA) called for the immediate retirement of all American Indian mascots, symbols, images and personalities by schools, colleges, universities, athletic teams and organizations. 

According to an article published by the APA, this position was based on a growing body of research that shows the harmful effects of racial stereotyping and inaccurate racial portrayals, including the particularly harmful effects of American Indian sports mascots on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people. 

The bottom line is that if we have a group of students who are hurting by something that is in our schools, we have an obligation to research that issue to try to find resolution. I can appreciate the nostalgia of previous Park High School graduates, but our obligation is to our current and future students, and to ensuring that all students feel supported, protected, and safe within our schools.

While no decision has been made at the board level, we can say that removing the emblem is an option that will be considered. We are currently trying to understand how the emblem stayed after the transition of the Indian mascot to Wolfpack, and what agreements were made during that transition. We have met with indigenous families in our district and listened to the impact that the emblem on the floor has on them every day.

The rest of our community is welcome to contact us through our website under “We’re Listening.” We value and appreciate all of our community members voices and partnerships in educating our students. We will be posting research articles around this topic on our website, should you be interested in learning more. It is only through understanding, and truly being open to hear another person’s perspective, that we will be able to move our community forward in a positive way, which, in the end, will benefit all of our students.  

After our research is complete, and a decision is made, you can rest assured that we will be transparent by informing the community of our decision and the rationale behind it. 

Submit your comments through "We're Listening"

Educational Resources: 

Summary of the APA Resolution Recommending Retirement of American Indian Mascots

National Congress of American Indians: Ending the Era of Harmful "Indian" Mascots 

New research shows how Native American mascots reinforce stereotypes, The Conversation