Yuma School District-1 has been taken off the “Mascot Bill” non-compliant list, and the lawsuit against the Colorado state legislation banning American Indian mascots has been dismissed in U.S. District Court.
All of this has taken place this month.
Yuma-1 was removed from the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs’ non-compliant list last Thursday during the CCIA’s regular quarterly meeting. It means the district will not be subjected to a monthly fine of $25,000 as dictated by SB 21-116, passed by the state legislature last year. Districts and/or schools not in compliance by June 1, 2022 are subjected to the monthly fine.
All schools/districts except Lamar have been removed from the non-compliant list, however, and the ones recently added to the list for having “Thunderbird” mascots have been granted one year to come into compliance.
Yuma-1 has taken considerable action to come into compliance, removing all Native American imagery inside and outside the district schools, though some things were left up for last Sunday’s Yuma High School graduation, but will be removed before the June 1 deadline.
“I really don’t have much else to say about that,” Yuma-1 Superintendent Dianna Chrisman told the board of education during its regular monthly meeting, Monday night.
Yuma sports teams will “just be Yuma” next school year as the board of education decided earlier this year to hold off on selecting a new mascot. Chrisman related that one CCIA member said she was happy the district is taking its time selecting a new mascot, rather than rush into selecting one that might not stand the test of time.
Board President Duane Brown also shared that a CCIA member expressed appreciation for the work Yuma-1 has done since last year to get into compliance with the state statute. Brown added he was surprised to hear that sentiment.
Yuma-1, however, will not be receiving any BEST Grant funds to help with the costs of eradicating the “Indians” mascot. It had been touted that BEST funds could be available for those costs, and Yuma-1 followed the procedure to submit an application.
However, last Thursday after the CCIA meeting, the district learned it would not get any BEST Grant funds for the mascot costs. Yuma-1 and St. Vrain Valley School District, for the Frederick High School Warriors, submitted BEST grants, but the board was told BEST funds are limited and mascot removal costs were way at the bottom of submissions.
Chrisman told the board the district has planned on $400,000 for the mascot change, but it likely will be closer to $325,000. Of that, about $288,000 are allowable costs to submit for a BEST Grant. (For example, purchasing new uniforms does not qualify applying for BEST money.)
Brown said the district did the BEST Grant submission to establish that it followed the right path for funding, and it might help convince the legislature in 2023 to find funding to reimburse the districts/schools impacted by SB 21-116.
A lawsuit attempting to overturn the Mascot Bill was dismissed earlier this month in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado by Judge Regina M. Rodriguez.
The challenge has been pushed by the Native American Guardian’s Association (NAGA), taken up by the Mountain States Legal Foundation in Lakewood, with several people with local connections entering as plaintiffs. The plaintiffs included two current Yuma students identified as John Doe and Jane Doe, as well as YHS graduate Chase Roubideaux and Yuma resident Don Smith. Demetrius Marez, a Lamar High School graduate and a member of NAGA also is a plaintiff.
Several people originally had been named as defendants, including Governor Jared Polis, who had signed SB 21-116 into law last year after its passage. However, the plaintiffs eventually amended the suit earlier this year to name only Kathryn Redhorse, executive director of the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs, as the sole defendant.
In a nutshell, Judge Rodriguez ruled that none of the plaintiffs had standing in regards to the state statute violating their First and 14th Amendment rights. She repeatedly pointed out in her 30-page ruling that SB 21-116 does not stop the plaintiffs from conversing about and educating people about Native American history and culture.
The lawsuit initially was filed November 2, 2021, and on November 5 the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, barring the defendants from taking any action to enforce SB 21-116. That was denied on December 1 because the plaintiffs did not establish that they would suffer an immediate, irreparable injury pending the ultimate determination of the case.
An appeal was filed with the 10th Circuit, but that request for an injunction pending their appeal was rejected, followed by the 10th Circuit dismissing the appeal outright for lack of prosecution in early February.
Judge Rodriguez eventually ruled the state legislation does not violate the plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights to petition, nor their 14th Amendment rights to equal protection from racial discrimination.
The judge did not rule about the overall constitutionality about the state legislation, but that the plaintiffs themselves lacked standing to bring the claims.
William Trachman with Mountain States Legal Foundation told the Pioneer in an email Tuesday night that they have opted not to appeal the dismissal.