The Sanford School District in the San Luis Valley announced Monday it will drop the Indian mascot and become the Sanford Thundering Mustangs effective May 28 this year.
That's just a few days before the legislative-imposed deadline of June 1 for all public schools in Colorado to remove Indian mascots or face a $25,000 per month fine from the state.
The deadline was set under Senate Bill 21-116, which bans the use of Indian mascots in public schools except for those who have formal agreements with tribes for their use. Only two schools in Colorado have those agreements: Arapahoe High School in Littleton and the Strasburg School District.
The announcement from the Sanford district, which is headquartered in the town of Manassa, said the new mascot was chosen after multiple community and student surveys.
"After retiring the Indian Mascot at graduation, Sanford Schools will officially welcome our new mascot, The Thundering Mustangs. The school will retain the colors of Kelly green, white, and black," the district said.
The district has yet to pick a new logo.
"The school is moving forward with having a professional graphic artist create some designs that will be chosen and associated with the new mascot image," said the district, which also noted that the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs must review the change to ensure the district met requirements that would keep it from being fined.
"Over the next six months, the school district will start removing our current mascot from the school and will begin transitioning to the new mascot," including for the district's website and phone app, the announcement said.
SB 116 allows for school districts to tap into the state's BEST fund to pay for the cost of removing Indian mascots.
According to the Commission of Indian Affairs, 28 schools and/or districts have Indian mascots, including Arapahoe High and the Strasburg district. The Indian is the mascot for both the Sanford Elementary School and the combined junior/senior high school.
Prior to the passage of SB 116, Cheyenne Mountain High School in Colorado Springs decided to remove its Indian mascot and change it to a red-tailed hawk.
A lawsuit, filed by the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation on behalf of the Native American Guardians Association and a handful of Colorado plaintiffs, challenging the legality of SB 116, is awaiting a hearing from the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.