|Tuesday, August 20
Devils Lake school board rids system of Satans
DEVILS LAKE, N.D. -- High school teams in Devils Lake no longer will be known as the Satans, the school's nickname for nearly 80 years.
The school board unanimously voted Monday night to immediately drop the nickname and mascot and start the process of finding a new name to represent its athletic teams.
The 5-0 vote brought applause, hugs and a few tears of joy from an audience that favored change.
Kellie Karlstad, a parent of three and the junior varsity girls basketball coach, was among those who had tears in her eyes.
"It's hard to stand up and cheer for the Satans," Karlstad said. "It's not an appropriate name for children. Also, as a coach, you try to instill pride. I think it's important to be proud of your name, too. I'm happy we'll be starting a new year with a new nickname."
Supporters of the change said the Satans nickname had brought division and a negative image.
"As far as finding one positive for keeping the nickname, I can't," board member Julie Schemionek said. "I believe in tradition. But sometimes, traditions need to be changed."
The Satans nickname, spotlighted in August SportsCenter story, has been debated for more than 20 years. Those who favor it asked for a public vote, either by residents of the School District or by the students.
"If it's such a big issue, more time should be taken to decide it," alumnus Gary Krantz said.
But board member Jeanne Corbett said, "The longer we drag this out, the longer the community will be torn apart. And if it turns one student away from our school system, it's one too many."
Opponents of the nickname said earlier that it has led some students to enroll in other schools or turn to home schooling.
School Board Chairman Kevin Regan, a Devils Lake alumnus and athlete, said he had not been bothered by the nickname.
"I always thought it was a natural fit that the mascot for Devils Lake would be Satans," he said. "But as we've gone through the process, I realized that a group are sincerely offended by the name. It affects these kids, and it's more than just a couple. A significant percentage are uncomfortable with it because of their religious beliefs."
Board member Curt Sinness said he logged phone calls, letters and personal contacts.
"Eighty-plus percent favored a change," Sinness said. "So I moved with the will of the people."
Tom Mertens, the parent who proposed the change to the board, said the unanimous vote made it even more significant. "I was hoping for a unanimous vote so there would be no division," he said. "Ten years ago, the vote was 3-2 to keep it and that's why there's still controversy today."
Mertens shared a hug with the Rev. Bruce Dick, pastor of Bethel Evangelical Free Church of Devils Lake. The ministerial association was united in seeking a change.
"Ten years ago, there was division even in the religious community," Dick said. "This time, a lot of categories came together to offer broad support. I'm not sure why it was different this time. Maybe it was just because the time had come."
School starts in Devils Lake the week of Aug. 26. Superintendent Steve Swiontek said a committee of students, residents, board members and administration officials will come up with a new name and mascot. The recommendation will be brought to the School Board, he said.
Sophomore Talice Regan, a cousin and godchild of the board president, said the nickname has been around for a long time.
"It will seem weird having another name," she said.