The names of professional sports teams like the Washington Redskins have generated national controversy in recent years—to the point that three news publications will no longer publish the word “Redskins,” and instead refer to the team as “Washington.” In this political climate, some states have enacted laws to ensure K12 school mascots are culturally sensitive.
Wisconsin passed a first-of-its-kind law in 2010 in which just a single complaint from a school district resident could trigger a state review of a mascot. Under this law, the district had to make a case that the mascot did not promote discrimination.
But in December, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a new law making the process more difficult. Today, at least 10 percent of a district’s student population must sign a petition before the state will review a mascot. And those who file the complaint now must demonstrate that the mascot is racist.
In 2012, the Oregon State Board of Education passed a law requiring schools to retire Native American mascots by 2017 or lose state funding. A February bill that Governor Kitzhaber says he will sign into law requires districts that want to keep their mascot to seek approval from one of nine federally recognized Oregon tribes.