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Legislators move to repeal mascots law

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Kevin Hoffman
February 25, 2011
— Republican lawmakers this week introduced a bill to repeal legislation that granted the state schools superintendent authority to force school districts to change racially based nicknames.

The law signed last year by former Gov. Jim Doyle allowed residents to file complaints with the state, giving the state Department of Public Instruction more power to scrutinize school nicknames, mascots and logos.


The bill nearly won unanimous support from Democrats, but now the Republican majority is moving to overturn the law. The proposed legislation would order decisions on nicknames back to the local level.


Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, introduced the bill with 16 other Assembly Republicans, including Rep. Tyler August, R-Walworth.


Nass since December has stated he would seek to repeal the law during the special session. He said race-based mascots are not discrimination, referencing several court rulings that support his thought.


The law signed last year allowed residents to file complaints over a school's nickname to the state superintendent, who then scheduled a hearing where the district had to prove why its name or mascot didn't promote discrimination.


New legislation would give school boards the power to make that determination without intervention from the state. However, residents still could appeal to the state Department of Public Instruction, according to the proposal.


Since the law was enacted, the department received three complaints involving Osseo-Fairchild, Kewaunee and Mukwonago school districts, a spokesman from the state department said. Osseo-Fairchild and Mukwonago, both the Chieftains, were ordered to change the name, and the Kewaunee Indians dropped the nickname voluntarily, he said.


Big Foot School District in Walworth County, nicknamed the Chiefs, has not received any complaints.


Nass' bill could overturn those decisions. A provision in the proposal voids all orders handed down by the state superintendent.


The bill was introduced Tuesday and sent to the state Assembly's Committee on Homeland Security and State Affairs.



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