As expected, Governor Scott Walker has signed a controversial bill (AB-297) that weakens the state law on Indian mascots. Walker spoke with reporters in Madison shortly before signing the bill into law Thursday, and characterized his decision as balancing differing different views on the subject.
“If I could handle things myself I personally would change all the different names and mascots that have been deemed to be offensive,” Walker said. “By the same token I obviously have some concerns about free speech and what that means from a legal principle. Free speech means that speech I may not necessarily agree with is still protected.”
Barb Munson with the Wisconsin Indian Education Association called the free speech argument “bogus” – because schools are public entities.
AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (:55)
“The issue will not go away until the mascots go away,” Munson said. “There’s no place for a form of race-based stereotyping, a form of discrimination to be condoned by the public schools. It just is not conscionable. It is a bogus argument, because as a governmental entity the school districts do have a responsibility. But that responsibility is to the education of our children.
Munson said the new law makes it much more difficult to force districts to drop mascots, although a determined group or individual might still be able to meet the much tougher requirements.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers said in a statement that he was disappointed in the governor’s action.
“The children of Wisconsin are not served well when legislation makes it more difficult for citizens to object to discrimination they see in local schools. There is a growing body of research documenting the negative educational outcomes associated with the use of American Indian mascots, logos, and nicknames. Yet this new law requires the signatures of 10 percent of a school district’s membership to file a complaint about an Indian mascot or logo. In no other situation of harassment, stereotyping, bullying, or discrimination must an individual gather signatures from others to have the matter considered by a government body.”