Changing the Hays Middle School mascot is back on the table as of Monday night's Hays school board meeting.

After a committee met in 2023 to discuss the Hays High School mascot, the Hays school board voted to keep the two mascots the same — the HHS as the Indains and HMS as the Falcons.

The district is constructing a new high school and remodeling the current high school into a middle school as part of a $143.5 million school bond.

During that discussion, some residents suggested the middle school should also have the Indians as its mascot.

New board member Jayme Goetz asked that the board revisit the middle school mascot decision.

She said constituents contacted her about having the same mascot for the middle and high schools.

She said most of the messages she received before Monday were in favor of having the Indian mascot at both HHS and HMS, which, once the bond is complete, will be on the same campus on 13th Street.

That changed on Monday with more comments against making the Indians the Hays Middle School mascot.

Board member Ruth Ruder said she believes in one community and one campus.

"I am the wife of an American Indian. I think it is disheartening that we can't use the Indian. My family is proud of their Indian heritage. My husband has said over and over that he's Indian and doesn't understand why people find the mascot racist."

She said she thinks the school district has an obligation to the taxpayers, and a combined mascot would save money.

"I want our students to be proud of where we come from. You can’t erase history," Ruder said.

Goetz said she wants teachers and students to be heard.

About 80 percent of respondents to a 2023 survey about the mascot said they wanted to keep the Indian mascot. Bruce Rupp, HMS assistant principal/athletic director, said a similar number of middle school teachers said they wanted HMS also to be the Indians at that time.

Board member Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp said she appreciated Ruder's story.

"I also know that these days I study abuse. One thing a person uses to harm another is to turn them into a thing, and that is what mascots are. They are a symbol and not a person anymore," she said.

Anna Towns, who spoke during public comments, spoke against the Indian mascot. She noted the state recommended in 2022 Kansas schools move away from Native American mascots.

Zampieri-Lillpopp said she also had concerns the state would eventually require schools to eliminate Native American mascots.

"When they take the Indian off the top of the capitol," Ruder said, "we can talk about it then."

Board member Curt Vajnar said he thought parents would appreciate being able to wear one shirt for seven years a student is in school.

Board member Allen Park said other districts in Kansas have the same mascot for their middle and high schools.

The 2023 committee already recommended both schools use the same school colors. The HHS logo has been rebranded to an H with a spear point.

Rupp said the middle school could benefit from sharing some equipment with the high school. 

However, he said he has an April 22 deadline to order equipment for the upcoming school year.

Board members voted to table the item.