School districts that fail to stop using Indian and "race-based" mascots, logos and nicknames found to promote discrimination would face monetary penalties under a bill narrowly passed by the state Senate on Tuesday.
There are currently more than 30 school districts with mascots or logos that could be directly affected by the bill, SB 25. Some of the nicknames include the Redmen, Chieftans, and Warriors.
Sen. Spencer Coggs, D-Milwaukee, told lawmakers that passage of the bill sends a message to Native Americans and other groups who've been discriminated against that "you are worth something, you are worthy, your culture we respect.
It passed by a vote of 17-16.
The state Assembly approved its version of the bill in late February.
If Gov. Jim Doyle signs the bill into law, Wisconsin would require the state superintendent to immediately review complaints from any school district resident. The superintendent may decide to schedule a hearing on the matter, but may decide its not necessary.
For example, a hearing would not be necessary - or could be postponed - if a school district could prove several factors, including the basis of a complaint is a depiction is of a specific, federally-recognized Indian tribe, and that tribe granted approval to the school board to use its name.
Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, warned under the bill it would only take only one "malcontent" to show up and complain for a district to have to change its mascot. Other Republicans defended such mascots as celebrating Native American history and culture.