A recently passed Wisconsin measure creating a pathway for those looking to challenge school mascots that may be racially offensive isn’t perfect, Native American advocates say. But it’s a start.
The law, enacted last month after similar bills had failed during the previous decade, allows residents of a school district to challenge names they contend promote a negative racial stereotype, typically of American Indians.
After a challenge, the state schools superintendent would hold a hearing to decide whether the name does promote a stereotype. If so, the district would have a year to change the mascot, but could appeal for more time if it could prove an immediate change would cause serious financial burden.
“This is a compromise, of course,” said Barbara E. Munson, the chair of the state’s Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force, saying she would prefer all American Indian mascots be eliminated. “But it’s a good compromise. I like it because it does allow for dialogue.”
The law is the first state measure of its kind, but it follows a 2005 National Collegiate Athletic Association mandate that bars schools that use American Indian mascots from hosting NCAA championships.
The only complaint filed since the law was enacted May 21 has been against western Wisconsin’s Osseo-Fairchild district, according to Patrick Gasper, a spokesman for the state education department. Another district voluntarily dropped its “Redmen” moniker after the law’s passage. Mr. Gasper said other districts had taken similar voluntary steps before the law was enacted.
Currently, 36 of the state’s more than 400 school districts use a name that could be subjected to a challenge, Mr. Gasper said.
McClatchy Tribune News Service contributed to this report.
A version of this article appeared in the June 09, 2010 edition of Education Week as Mascot-Name Law On Books in Wis.