Thu September 26, 2013
Bill Makes It More Difficult To Challenge Native American Mascots
A Republican bill would make it tougher to challenge Native American mascots, logos and nicknames used by school districts.
Supporters say the bill would give more power to local residents, while opponents say it will keep Native American mascots from ever being changed.
Democrats passed Act 250 in 2009, creating a process for people to challenge a school district's Native American mascot, logo or nickname. If a person filed a complaint with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the school district had to either change the logo or defend it in a hearing.
Since then, a number of districts have changed their mascots either preemptively or under order by DPI. But Republicans, including Rep. Steve Nass, have long criticized the law and are poised to introduce a bill that makes big changes to it. Nass spokesman Mike Mikalsen says they're hoping to make the law fairer.
“The process will now require more than one person to come in and make the complaint,” says Mikalsen. “There’s going to have to be people willing, up to 10 percent of the total student body.”
Mikalsen says under the bill, cases that are appealed will now be heard by the Department of Administration and not DPI, which he says is biased in the matter. He says the bill will still allow for a challenge but will give districts a better chance at defending themselves.
“If a district is doing something inappropriate, it has to be shown that that action is either discriminatory or harmful to students in that district,” says Mikalsen. “It can’t be just that people are offended it has to be that there’s an actual harm being caused.”
DPI Superintendent Tony Evers says the bill will effectively allow Native mascots to exist forever. “Essentially, they’re saying to the American Indian population in Wisconsin, ‘There is no recourse here,’ and I’m not sure that’s the appropriate thing.’”
The bill changing the state’s mascot’s law is expected to be introduced in the legislature next week.