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Student Well-Being

Calif. Gov. Signs Bill Prohibiting ‘Redskins’ Mascots at Public Schools

By Bryan Toporek — October 14, 2015 2 min read
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Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Sunday prohibiting public schools from using “Redskins” as a mascot, making California the first state to enact such legislation.

The bill, which passed through the state Senate on a 25-10 vote and the Assembly by a 60-10 margin, requires schools using such a mascot to switch by Jan. 1, 2017. It also prohibits the state board of education from overriding this requirement.

Four schools in the state— Chowchilla Union High School, Gustine High School, Calaveras High School, and Tulare Union High School—currently use the mascot. Gustine Unified Superintendent Ronald Estes told the Merced Sun-Star it would cost the district roughly $110,000 to switch to a different mascot.

Financial help may be on the way for the schools affected by this change, however. If the commission on state mandates determines the bill “contains cost mandated by the state,” California will be responsible for covering the costs of the switch.

Schools currently using the Redskins mascot or team name may continue using uniforms with the name past Jan. 1, 2017, so long as the school has selected a new team name, mascot, or nickname by that date; does not purchase any additional uniforms with that term for the purpose of distributing them to students or faculty; and does not use the team name or mascot on any other school materials, not limited to yearbooks, marquees, or newspapers. They may purchase uniforms bearing the term by Jan. 1, 2019, but only to serve as replacements for damaged or lost uniforms.

“As the state with the largest Native American population in the country, we should not continue to allow a racial slur to be used by our public schools,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, the sponsor of the bill, in a statement following the Assembly’s final vote. “California should lead the way and phase out the use of this derogatory term.”

The Oregon board of education enacted a similar ban on such mascots in 2012, but the state legislature has yet to weigh in on the issue. Some school districts, such as the Houston Independent school district, have also taken matters into their own hands by banning the use of any race or ethnic group as a mascot or nickname.

The California legislature originally voted to prohibit schools from using ‘Redskins’ as a mascot in 2004, but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill once it reached his desk. Eleven years later, Brown decided not to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.