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State bill would force schools to defend 'discriminatory' mascots

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MADISON - The list of mascots includes the Redmen, Chiefs and Indians.

More than 30 school districts in Wisconsin have race-based mascots or logos. But that may change if the Legislature passes a bill allowing people to file complaints alleging the mascots promote discrimination or stereotyping. The state Assembly will vote today on AB 35. If it's passed by both houses and signed into law, school districts that fail to stop using mascots found to promote discrimination would face monetary penalties.

Barbara Munson, chairwoman of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association's Indian mascot and logo task force, said for years school districts have been warned such mascots are damaging to American Indian children.

"All of the school districts have been asked repeatedly to change their mascots," said Munson, a member of the Oneida Nation.

But some educators say they've also been contacted by people who support the mascots, arguing they honor the important role American Indians have played throughout history.

Chuck Forster, principal of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau High School, said the school board has heard from numerous people on both sides of the issue about its Redmen mascot and logo, the profile of a chief wearing a headdress.

The legislation would require the state superintendent to schedule a hearing within 45 days of receiving a complaint from any school district resident, and school boards would have the burden of proving their mascots, logos, names or nicknames don't promote discrimination, pupil harassment or stereotyping.

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