31 Wisconsin Schools Use Native American Mascots. A School Board Is Calling for Them All to Be Retired
Annysa Johnson, Alex Groth, and JR Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 14, 2019
The Wausau School District is asking school boards to endorse the resolution, which calls on the Wisconsin Association of School Boards to recommend legislation effectively barring schools from using Native American mascots and imagery as part of its legislative and lobbying agenda.
Already, the Madison and Sun Prairie school districts have signed on. And it is expected to be endorsed by the Milwaukee Public Schools Board when members take up the measure this month, board President Larry Miller and Vice President Tony Baez said Tuesday.
“Wisconsin has reached a point where we have to do away with these vestiges of anti-Native American thinking,” said Baez, who likened the controversy to that surrounding the use of the Confederate flag in the south.
According to the resolution, about 31 of the state’s 421 public school districts still use Native American mascots, symbols, images, logos or nicknames. In southeastern Wisconsin, those include the Muskego and Ozaukee Menomonee Falls Superintendent Corey Golla said his board generally sees these types of policies as a matter of local control.
“That said, we fully respect that this is regarded by many as controversial. Native American groups have reached out to us, and we’re sensitive to the impact that it has,” Golla said. At the same time, “we’re trying to reconcile that we also have a community that is supportive of its school and that there is some history behind the name.”
The resolution says the use of Native imagery reinforces stereotypes, perpetuates “culturally abusive behavior” by non-Native students and “undermines the educational experiences” of all students. And it cites a 2005 statement by the American Psychological Association calling for the immediate retirement of Native American mascots and imagery “because of the harm caused to the social identity development and self-esteem of Native American students.”
In May, Maine became the first U.S. state to outlaw Native American mascots and other imagery in its public high schools.