Student Well-Being

Calif. Senate Votes to Ban ‘Redskins’ Mascots From Public Schools

By Bryan Toporek — September 10, 2015 2 min read
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California took another step this week toward prohibiting public schools from using the term “Redskins” as a team name, mascot, or nickname, as the state Senate voted 25-10 Tuesday on legislation that would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

The bill acknowledges “many individuals and organizations interested and experienced in human relations, including the United States Commission on Civil Rights, have concluded that the use of Native American images and names in school sports is a barrier to equality and understanding, and that all residents of the United States would benefit from the discontinuance of their use.” In addition, the bill says “no individual or school has a cognizable interest in retaining a racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname.”

Accordingly, if the bill passes, no public school in the state can use the term “Redskins” beginning Jan. 1, 2017, except in limited circumstances. Schools may continue wearing uniforms with the term after that point if they have selected a new mascot, but must refrain from purchasing more uniforms with the term unless they’re bought explicitly to be replacements for lost or damaged uniforms. They must also refrain from distributing other materials or constructing new signs with that name.

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

If the Calif. commission on state mandates decides the bill “contains costs mandated by the state,” the bill requires the state to reimburse school districts for the cost of making the switch.

“We applaud the California Senate for its vote and congratulate and thank Assemblyman Luis Alejo for having the moral courage to author this bill and to shepherd it through the political process in California,” said National Congress of American Indians executive Director Jackie Pata and Oneida Indian Nation representative Ray Halbritter, leaders of the Change the Mascot movement, in a statement. “This milestone is a major victory for everyone continuing the fight to bring an end to the use of this demeaning epithet in California and all across the country.”

The bill now heads back to the state Assembly, which passed it earlier this year on a 60-9 vote, before advancing to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown for final approval. He has yet to comment on whether he’ll sign the legislation, although former state Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar bill back in 2004, saying he believed such matters should be decided at the local level. If Brown does sign the bill, California will become the first state to legislatively prohibit schools from using the term as a mascot or nickname. (Oregon’s state board of education adopted a similar policy in 2012, but the state legislature has yet to weigh in on the issue.)

According to, roughly 70 schools around the country still use the term for their mascot.

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