TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Kansas State Board of Education held a meeting Tuesday and Wednesday, the first since rejecting the letter of resignation from Commissioner Randy Watson on Feb. 25.

The 10 member board appointed Randy Watson the Education Commissioner in 2014. Following comments he made in a conference call that were insensitive to Native Americans, the board was forced to consider his resignation. On Feb. 25, the board rejected the letter of resignation and instead suggested a 30-day suspension.

(KSNT Photo/James Ryan)

The board heard from two leaders from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Tribal Council Wednesday. Chairman Joseph “Zeke” Rupnick and Council Member Raphael Wahwassuck expressed their disapproval of the board’s decision not to accept Watson’s resignation.

The two leaders told the board how harmful comments like Watson’s and other things, like Native American mascots, can be to Native American children.

Wahwassuck told a story about parents in the Manhattan-Ogden school district who wear T-shirts that read, “Tribal Elder,” which he said is offensive.

“To us, that is a status that somebody earns throughout their lifetime,” Wahwassuck said. “For these folks to just you know put that on a T-shirt and wear it around no big deal, it affected them. It affected their performance in the meet and it still affects them today.”

Following the discussion with the two leaders, the board saw a presentation by Dr. Alex Red Corn, a K-State professor and member of the Osage Tribe.

Corn encouraged the board to look into “Five Considerations” for improving education for American Indians:

  • Curricular reform
  • Affirming the sovereignty of Native nations
  • Examination of data infrastructure
  • Creating a position in the Kansas Department of Education to coordinate American Indian education programming
  • Removing American Indian themed mascots and imagery