Three Federal Way schools may be affected by a recent bill approved by Gov. Jay Inslee that prohibits the “inappropriate use” of Native American names, symbols or images for schools.
House Bill 1356, signed into law by Inslee on April 26, bans public school logos, mascots or team names from inappropriately using Native American imagery.
In Federal Way, three middle schools use Native American imagery, including the Illahee Braves, Sacajawea Warriors and Totem Thunderbirds.
Totem Middle School is the district’s top priority because the building is currently being rebuilt and is set to open in winter 2021, according to the district.
“Although the inappropriate use of Native American names, symbols, or images may be premised on the promotion of unity or school spirit, their use fails to respect the cultural heritage of Native Americans and promote productive relationships between sovereign governments,” the bill reads.
In Washington, approximately 32 schools are under consideration for team name or mascot changes, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction fiscal analysis report. Public schools have until Jan. 1, 2022, to change their school mascots, logos or team names.
If a school is located near a tribal reservation or tribal trust lands, the consulted tribe can determine to authorize the respectful use of the name, symbol, or image as a school mascot, logo, or team name, according to the bill.
The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction may provide transitional support grants to cover costs of replacement or redesign of items, such as uniforms or team equipment, school signage, gymnasium floor designs, school web pages and more.
Federal Way Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell has started to meet with local tribal leaders for their feedback to collaboratively assess school team names and mascots affected by this bill, said Kassie Swenson, chief of communications for FWPS.
In addition to Native American voices, the district is also seeking student, staff and community input.
Once FWPS has determined the necessary changes, “we will be able to develop a cost estimate for those changes,” Swenson said.