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Fort Smith Superintendent Testifies Regarding Mascot Decision

Fort Smith School District superintendent Benny Gooden recently testified for two hours in a Sebastian County Circuit Court hearing about the June 23rd Fort Smith School Board meeting in which board members voted to do away with “Dixie” as the Southside High School fight song and to also remove the school’s mascot. This hearing was in response to a lawsuit filed by Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen, who alleges that the School Board violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by not disclosing that the June 23rd meeting would involve discussion regarding the removal of the school mascot and song.

Gooden argued in his hearing that the School Board did not violate the Freedom of Information Act because sufficient notice was given to the news media that the June 23rd meeting would take place. However, he also admitted that when the meeting was announced, there was no mention of a discussion over the removal of the school’s song and mascot.

Responding to this, McCutchen argued that, according to existing School Board policy, “no business can be transacted unless it is listed in the purpose of the called meeting.”

The judge presiding over this case, Circuit Judge James O. Cox, has given McCutchen and opposing council, attorney Mitch Llewellyn, two additional weeks to gather depositions and prepare arguments for a hearing at a later date.