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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

 4:36 PM 

Senate debating race-based mascot bill

The Senate is now debating a bill that would change the process for handling complaints over race-based mascots.

A substitute amendment authored by Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, would institute a system overseen by the Department of Public Instruction requiring a systematic review of all race-based mascots by school districts and whether they were discriminatory. The amendment would make exemptions to the rule for local school districts who find an agreement on the name with the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council.

"Again, there’s rumor mongering that somehow GLITC has a secret agenda to do away with all Native American Based mascots. Well, I don’t think that’s a secret," Schultz said. "I mean, if your race was being demeaned and vilified wouldn’t you want to end that too?"

Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, said the difference between the two bills is the process afforded to complainants. The GOP bill, she argued, was fair to all parties, while the original law regarding race-based mascots presumed discrimination and gave no deference to communities who did not believe the mascots were offended.

"It creates a nanny complaint system with DPI telling communities they should be offended," Lazich said.

The Assembly version of the bill would only trigger a complaint when a petition opposing the mascot, signed by 10 percent of the school district population, is submitted. From there, the Division of Hearings and Appeals at DOJ would hear the complaint and would place the burden of proof on the complainant to show the mascot promotes discrimination or harassment.

Democrats assailed the GOP-version of the bill as an unjustified compromise that doesn't do enough to address the discrimination suffered by Native Americans. Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, made the point by using the n-word several times during her floor speech, noting how the word has been deemed racist but that some GOP colleagues won't abandon titles like "redskins" or "savages."

"As a nation, it took us a long time to come from slavery and after that we still struggled to overcome the use of the n-word and to find it offensive," Taylor said. "Some people still don't. I hope it makes you uncomfortable when you hear me say it. And I wish that we were as uncomfortable with savages, Indians and redskins. "


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