Wisconsin Senate Passes Bill Making It Harder to Protest Indian Mascots

by Sterling Beard

As the national battle over the Washington Redskins’ name rages, the Wisconsin state senate approved a bill Tuesday evening that that makes it more difficult to lodge complaints against schools with Native American mascots.

Republican state representative Stephen Nass authored the bill after the Mukwonago School District refused to change its nickname, the Indians, despite an order from the state to do so. Democrats lambasted the bill for four hours before its passage, charging that Mukwonago’s mascot was a caricature and represented a “return to darkness” in schools.

The measure, Assembly Bill 297, passed the state senate by a vote of 17–16, with one Republican voting against the bill. It passed the lower chamber by a 52–41 vote back on October 15, and now goes to Governor Scott Walker’s desk.

Under the proposed bill, complainants will be required to collect signatures equal to one-tenth of the school district’s population within a 120-day period before filing their complaint, and the burden of proof will lie with them.

Under current law, a resident of a school district with a school that has a race-based nickname may file a complaint with the state superintendent of public instruction, which holds a hearing on the matter if the school district is unable to prove that a federally recognized tribe has given their blessing to the mascot. School districts bear the burden of proving that the subject of the complaint is not discriminatory; if they don’t, the superintendent can order the name changed.

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