State Legislature addresses Native American nicknames

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MADISON (WITI) -- The State Legislature took up the controversial topic of Native American mascot nicknames on Tuesday, October 15th.

The debate over the merits of certain mascots came to the Assembly.

"The legislature with the law that's on the books has basically legislative offensiveness, and that's a terrible road to go down," said State Rep. Steve Nass (R).

After Mukwonago refused to change its Indians nickname, Nass proposed a bill that would make it harder for the state to force changes.

Under the current law, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) must hold a hearing on a school's race-based nickname if it receives a complaint from just one person. Then the school must prove its nickname doesn't promote discrimination.

"The department of public instruction bureaucrats then take over, and you can not win, it is known, you can not win, so what the bill does today is create fairness," said Nass.

"The native Americans in this state fought for the current law for years and years and years, and now because one school objects to the process, we're going to go back and redo the entire process?  I'm a hundred percent against this and I intend to fight it," said State Rep. Christine Sinicki (D).

The bill would require the person making the complaint to collect signatures of ten percent of the entire school district's students.

"If a school district body is 1,000 students, it would take 100 signers -- a key thing would be the signers would then have to prove why the name or logo would be discriminatory," said Nass.

"If someone's at a Packers game screaming shred the cheeseheads, that's an inanimate object -- and indian is a real live person," said Sinicki.

Under the bill, the Dept. of Administration, not the DPI, would make the final decision.