Wed October 9, 2013
Assembly May Vote On Native American Mascot Bill Next Week
The state Assembly may vote next week on a bill that makes it harder to force school districts to change their Native American logos and mascots.
Under a law passed in 2009, the Department of Public Instruction can force a school district to change its mascot if a resident complains about it and if the district fails to prove that the mascot does not denigrate Native Americans. A bill sponsored by Rep. Stephen Nass (R-Whitewater) would shift the burden of proof to the person making the complaint.
Nass says the change will make the process fairer: “Unlike right now where one person can file a complaint and then go home and do nothing, and then the Department of Public Instruction takes over.”
The bill faces strong opposition from state tribal leaders and from the Department of Public Instruction. lt also requires anyone filing a complaint against a mascot to gather signatures equal to 10 percent of the district's student population before filing the complaint.
DPI spokeswoman Jennifer Kammerud told a Senate committee that requirement sets an arbitrary standard for determining whether a logo is offensive or not.
“The language is requiring other people in the community to validate someone else's experiences and feelings,” she says. “We do wonder in what other situation is anyone who feels discriminated against, bullied, or harassed required to gather signatures in order for a hearing to be held or the matter even considered.”
The new law has support from school officials in Mukwonago, who have challenged the current law as unconstitutional. Democrats say they will try to strip the 10 percent signature requirement from the bill when it's debated on the floor of the Assembly.
Correction: The original version of this story quoted a DPI spokesperson named Janice Kammerud. The DPI representative's name is actually Jennifer Kammerud.