J.W. Sexton enters final stage of mascot rebranding process

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Lansing’s J.W. Sexton High School is selecting its new mascot and will no longer be known as the Big Reds.

The Lansing School District received a $87,500 grant from the Native American Heritage Fund to help with the costs of replacing the mascot and designing a new logo.

The fund’s goal is to promote positive relationships between public and private K-12 grade schools, colleges, universities, local units of government, and Michigan’s federally recognized Native American Tribes.

“We know that this mascot is culturally insensitive, and I know that it’s not the way of the Sexton family to exclude people, so we’re going to move boldly forward,” Lansing School District Board President Gabrielle Lawrence said. 

Sexton is not the first school in the Capital Area to change its mascot. Okemos High School recently changed its mascot from the “Chiefs” to the “Wolves.” Riddle Elementary School also changed its mascot from the “Little reds” to the “Rhinos.”

“We’ve been offending a culture for the past 80 years,” Principal Daniel Boggan said.

According to usnews.com, 0.3% of Sexton students identify as Native American.

On Aug. 28, the rebranding process was explained to students during a first-day assembly. Students and faculty were then asked to come up with ideas for a new mascot.

Sexton student Christopher Manuel believes the change is necessary. 

“I think that the name change is going to be good for our community, especially because it’s racist. Back then, they weren’t thinking about our Native American people. I think that it’s time for a change in our community,”  Manuel said.

The community meeting

On Sept. 28, Sexton held its community input meeting. Alumni, parents, faculty, and students gathered in the cafeteria to share their thoughts and perspectives.

Roviettiea Lewis, an indigenous community member and a parent of a Sexton student, spoke about the importance of this change and what it means to her. 

“When I was in the 12th grade, I got my own email. I looked up all of the schools in Michigan that had Native mascots to tell them how offended I was. I never got a response, never. That was about 17 years ago, so I am very proud to be standing here and to see this happening,” Lewis said.

Sexton students and faculty narrowed the suggested list of mascots down to a top-five list.

Sexton displayed their top 5 choices on the screen during the community input meeting

The top five choices are the following:

  1. J-Dubbs
  2. Big Dawgs
  3. Cardinals
  4. Saints
  5. Vipers

A community survey will be conducted to narrow down the top three choices. Current students, alumni, and faculty will choose, by vote, the final mascot.

Sexton alum, Dr. Claude Hogan, believes that Sexton is making the right decision.

“When I think of Sexton, I think of tradition. A name doesn’t make tradition, the people in the building make tradition.” Hogan said.

After the final mascot is chosen, it will be presented to the district’s executive team and board of education for approval. Once approved, the design of the new mascot/logo will begin. There will be numerous opportunities to provide feedback during the design process. 

Once everything is approved, the new mascot will be released to the public during a pep rally. The new mascot and logo will be implemented by the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year.

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