School district shelves
USD No. 409 announced Monday morning that a long-planned public forum on the future of the Redmen mascot won’t happen for now.
Superintendent Susan Myers said she is concerned that if the forum, which is expected to draw at least dozens of people to Atchsion Elementary School, is held now, it will be disruptive to the mourning of recent student deaths in the community.
Zachary Armontrout, 16, of Rushville, Missouri, died on Monday morning after a car with him at the wheel on Sunday afternoon went off River Road as it approached the Independence Creek bridge in north Atchison County. The death of Regan Moger, 16, of Houston, Texas, became known on Tuesday; the time of her death hasn’t been announced.
Herb Gwaltney, president of the USD No. 409 Board of Education, said board members didn’t take lightly the decision to postpone the forum on the morning of what may become a momentous time of transition for the district.
“We’ve got to find (another) time that seven board members and a moderator can get together,” Gwaltney said. “It’s almost complete ... This isn’t easy. Many are involved with night responsibilities and scheduled conflicts ... We will have info to share for Atchison County citizens.”
Gwaltney said the MH-MA community is first on his mind amid this change of plans.
“We feel that the students and their families are part of our community,” he said. “Healing takes time.”
A statement posted on Twiter by @atchisonredmen, owned by USD No. 409, reiterated the cause of the rescheduling. The school district uses the Redmen mascot, which has inspired some controversy for years amid concerns it is insensitive to Native Americans, on most of its social media accounts.
“Due to the tragedy in our community USD No. 409 is postponing the Mascot forum scheduled for 5:30 p.m. (Monday),” the district wrote. “The rescheduled date is to be determined and we will make that information public as soon as we have it.”
Phil Baniewicz, MH-MA president and headmaster, said he appreciates USD No. 409’s support. The news came to him as a surprise while he stood vigil for Moger at The University of Kansas Medical Center on Monday.
“... I think it shows the concern our community has for everyone,” he said. “We appreciate working close with the other schools during difficult times. I am grateful several of Atchison High’s administrators and health professionals were with us last night assisting us with students.”