Petition to Rename USD 373's "Lindley" Hall, Stop Commemorating a Racist in Our Community

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Newton School Board chooses to honor a racist who has caused decades of unfair treatment and emotional distress to many community Hispanic and Black American students.  While the name, Lindley Hall, may bring smiles to those who were deemed worthy enough to benefit from his tenure in Newton, it remains a horrible scar on the souls of minorities. Not only were they subjected to ridicule and racist treatment from Frank Lindley, they and their descendants must still endure the knowledge that USD 373 endorses that treatment, honors Frank Lindley and refuses to recognize in this day and age no human being should be treated as less than another.


It's time to bring USD 373 into the 21st Century. Please help correct this horrible wrong by signing this petition to remove the name, "Lindley Hall", from USD 373's 5th Grade Attendance Center gymnasium and any honorific thereof.


This petition is being made on behalf of my father Anthony Cuellar. 


How are we making this more than “Slacktivism”?

My father and my mom have been advocating for this change for nearly a year now from peaceful protest to directly addressing USD 373.


Both of them attended this November 9th, 2020 BOE Meeting and expressed their concerns as community members regarding the need to change the name of Lindley Hall. As of writing this on January 22, 2021, the Board has taken no action on this matter.


Recently, my father sent this letter of demand to the USD 373 School Board. He told me that the response he recently received from them was dismissive of the letter. 


He is planning to meet with a lawyer and discuss what grounds he can file on and take it from there. 


But in the meantime, we need to show that this matters to more than just us.


My father is an incredibly persistent man who refuses to give up on the things he believes in. He will continue finding ways to make this change possible, but there is also so much additional strength in numbers.  


We’re asking that you take one minute to sign this petition and if you’d like, to share your reason for why you believe this change needs to be made. 


So, why do we care?

From the Perspective of my father

My father Anthony Cuellar was a K-12 educator in USD 373 for over 30 years. He is a third generation Chicano. He and his siblings were the first generation in the Cuellar family to graduate from college, many of his siblings also pursuing educational careers. He dedicated his life to provide his students with a quality education and a place to feel safe and welcome. 

He took initiative when he was an English Language Learners teacher to begin celebrating Dia de los Muertos with his students; my mom and older sister painted the kids faces as calaveras, dad even got permission from the students teachers to respect their wishes for the holiday and that they will be silent. He worked with a local tortilla factory to get them to donate supplies for a school wide chips and salsa Cinco de Mayo celebration. All of the kids participated; kids who had no exposure to the culture otherwise were interested in learning more! 

He dedicated his life to his students. He found ways to make school interesting for kids while still teaching them the curriculum. He often stayed late just to let some of his students that were hesitant to head home (often due to a complicated home life) just hang out in his classroom. Countless times I remember when we’d carpool some of his students home who would otherwise have to walk multiple miles to get home.

My father was truly a public servant during his time as a teacher. He committed himself and continues to commit himself to improving his community through generosity, empathy and putting in the work. 


His dad was Rosalio Cuellar. Russ and his wife Judy Cuellar were the first Mexican American owners of a Mainstreet business in the 1970's in Newton, Kansas. Both of them took part in the local Newton G.I. Forum which advocated for equal access for Black and Mexican vets to quality healthcare and other veteran benefits that were afforded to their White counterparts. 

Russ’ father was Jose Cuellar. Jose and his family came from the Jalisco/Durango area during the Mexican Revolution. Jose worked for the Santa Fe Railroad Company where Russ also briefly worked as a teen. The two of them along with other Immigrants, Black folks and POC quite literally laid the tracks out of our town. For anyone who's lived there, they know that Newton and Trains are completely codependent. Our town takes a lot of pride in this, so much so that it’s incorporated into the towns logo.

Jose and other Chicano’s started the first Mexican-American Fast-Pitch Tournament in Newton which has now hit it’s 72nd Anniversary: It is still an integral part of our community. 


While we cannot speak on the experience for Black People in Newton and their thoughts on the naming of Lindley Hall being changed, we can reference the testimony from a groundbreaking local article regarding Frank Lindley by Kristine Schmucker, a curator at the Harvey County Historical Museum. 


From the words of our community members:


"Personally, when you name a place, that person should have some character,” Former NHS wrestling coach Jack Thaw.


“What message are we sending our children by keeping the name of a coach who, if it had been up to him, wouldn’t have allowed a growing number of Newton students to be part of the Newton teams because of the color of their skin? We need to stand together as a community and assert that, despite a history that we know we cannot change, we will no longer tolerate racial discrimination — nor should we honor those who did. For that reason, I support the name change of Lindley Hall.” - Monica DeLeon.


As well as this excerpt from the article:

However, there was a darker side to the success. Not all students were allowed to try out for the basketball team. Perhaps Ravenscroft was able to make his most significant contribution to the community by insisting on the integration of the basketball team.

‘I told him (Lindley) that I would take the job only if all kids got to play and we would do away with the separate Colored and Mexican teams.’ -John Ravenscroft


Until the late 1940s, young men of color were not allowed to play on the High School basketball team.  No matter how well they played. There were separate teams for the black and Hispanic students.”


What’s the opposition to the name change? 

What I have been able to find online of other Newtonians' opinions as to why changing the name is a bad decision pretty much sums up to “why change the past?” 


“History needs to stay history. Let’s stay in the present, make changes for the future. You can’t change the past.” 

Yeah! Why should we take down those confederate statues commemorating racist individuals who believed that anyone who wasn’t white was undeserving of human rights? Is “History is history” the best you have? Let’s live in the present and make changes in the present that will show our future generations that a racist isn’t who we will continue to to lionize in our community. 


Being a good Basketball coach does not absolve you of your racist and bigotted behavior toward children and teenagers. Just like in our current times when people argue that being a good Basketball coach absolves you of physically assaulting your players and emotionally terrorizing them as teenagers and college aged students.


I think fear is also a large component of this inaction, as pointed out in one article, that perhaps some BOE members did not wish to weigh on this specifically because they feared the impact it would have during the (then present) election season. I don’t find that to be far fetched in the current American political climate. I’m a firm believer that inaction is still incredibly harmful. It’s time to do something already. This is getting absurd. 


My Fathers take on this concept of “changing history” is also one that I think does a good job explaining our point of view. 


“This is 2020 and we are paying homage to a racist. We have placed his name in a place of honor. In 2008, we publicly decided to make him a special citizen. Maybe in 2008 we didn’t know this, but we know this now.”

There are NO excuses now.

We don’t understand what there is left for Newton’s Unified School District #373 to discuss. Renaming a building is quite simple. It is not a costly request. This most certainly should not be a controversial request. Yet time and time again, they have shown us that they simply refuse to make this change. They let the community talk about it, nod their heads and do nothing. 


In regards to renaming the auditorium, I am confident that community members will be glad to give their input as to what Newtonians would be better to publicly commemorate in a space of our youth.


Here are some suggestions as to better role models for the youth in our community that have ties to Newton. 


Tony Clark, an incredibly successful Black MLB All Star born in Newton, Kansas. He’s currently retired and participates in philanthropic ventures and was the 2017 DreamBuilder Award Recipient.


John M. Janzen, a Newton native who went on to be a Professor of Anthropology at the University of Kansas. Most importantly, he was “a leading figure on issues of health, illness, and healing in Southern and Central Africa since the 1960s and has dedicated much of his career to providing a better understanding of African society.” 

Elizabeth P. Hoisington, a Newton-born US Army officer who was one of the first two women to ever be one-star (brigadier general) 


Thank you for taking the time to read more about why we are so passionate about this and for signing our petition!