Column: Indian mascot bill good for schools in Wisconsin
"On April 20, the Wisconsin Legislature passed a bill that would improve the complaint process when allegations of discrimination are made against school districts that use race-based logos, mascots and nicknames. The state Department of Public Instruction would receive discrimination complaints, determine whether a contested hearing is required and would determine whether the complainant or school district has the burden of proof in showing whether a mascot promotes discrimination. If the department finds that a mascot is discriminatory, it could levy fines against a district that does not remove its mascot within 12 months.

The legislation would apply to all race-based mascots but would affect primarily the 36 school districts in Wisconsin that use Native American team names.

The legislation would allow a school district to show that its mascot is not discriminatory based on approval by a federally recognized American Indian tribe. This provision is similar to a policy used by the NCAA. A few colleges have been able to show that their mascots are appropriate, based on the school's relationship with a native community. For example, Central Michigan University uses the nickname Chippewas with the support of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation, and Mississippi College uses the nickname Choctaws with support from the Mississippi band of the Choctaw Indians.

Critics of the legislation argue that Native American names, mascots and logos used by school districts are not harmful or discriminatory and are actually a tribute to native cultures. However, no matter the intent, there is research showing that race-based images can harm Native American students.

The American Psychological Association has recommended the retirement of race-based mascots because such images perpetuate stereotypes and negatively affect native student's self-esteem. Many schools have recognized this and have made changes voluntarily."

Get the Story:
Matthew Hayes: Indian mascots: Legislation good for Wisconsin (The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 4/30)

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