The Wisconsin Senate Education Committee is about to start their hearing today on a bill that would improve the discrimination complaint process communities can have to challenge the use of race-based mascots. The ACLU of Wisconsin will be there to submit testimony on why we oppose the use of race-based logos, mascots and nicknames in public schools. We will also be tweeting live from the hearing: follow the updates at ACLUMadison on Twitter.com.
We've blogged before about the race-based mascot bill when it got a hearing in the state Assembly committee last year. Nearly 40 public school districts across Wisconsin continue to use logos for their sports teams that are based on race or ethnicity. Nicknames, like Chiefs or Chieftains, Indians, Red Raiders, Redman, and Warhawks, and school-approved mascots and logos have been a common feature at sporting and pep events attended by generations of enthusiastic students. However, the use of discriminatory mascots should be challenged.
The ACLU of Wisconsin points out that:
1. All public schools in Wisconsin are required to provide all students with an adequate, nondiscriminatory education. Race-based nicknames, logos and mascots are inherently discriminatory and shouldn’t be endorsed by a public school.
2. There should be a fair and adequate process for the Department of Public Instruction to review complaints from community members about race-based mascots. As the use of race-based mascots is government speech (not individual speech), the First Amendment does not apply. The government is responsible for addressing discriminatory practices such as the use of race-based mascots and the Department of Public Instruction is the appropriate agency to mediate local conflict resolution.
3. Having schools with mascots that are not based in racial or ethnic stereotypes will not only end this particular discriminatory practice, but will be a positive step toward equality and an embrace of good sportsmanship, respect for others and fair play.
For these reasons the ACLU of Wisconsin supports SB 25 on race-based nicknames, mascots and logos and encourages the Senate Education Committee to support this bill. Ending the use of race-based mascots won’t end all discrimination in our public schools, but it is an important step forward.
You can read the bill online (SB 25).