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Wisconsin GOP wants to make it easier for schools to keep Indian nicknames

The Mukwonago Indians have been ordered to change their name, but the school board refuses to do it. Now, GOPers are trying to let them off the hook.
The Mukwonago Indians have been ordered to change their name, but the school board refuses to do it. Now, GOPers are trying to let them off the hook.

The GOPers currently controlling the Legislature in Scott Walker's Wisconsin haven't exactly bathed themselves in glory this year, but this might be their most questionable initiative yet.

SEE ALSO: Chris Kluwe blasts NFL for tolerating Redskins nickname

Yesterday, they introduced a proposal that would make it easier for schools with nicknames like the Mukwonago Indians (logo at the top of this post) to withstand pressure from Native American tribes and others who think they are discriminatory and should be changed.

Currently, if a single resident of a school district files a complaint about an allegedly racist nickname, Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction (a non-partisan organization) schedules a hearing. The burden of proof is on school districts to prove their nickname isn't discriminatory, and the DPI can order a change if they aren't convinced.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains how that process would be different if the Republicans' proposal makes it through the Legislature and is signed into law, as will likely be the case:

The most significant change would shift the burden of proof from the school districts to those filing complaints...

The bill also would require the hearings to be conducted by the state Department of Administration rather than the Department of Public Instruction. That would shift control of the hearings to Walker's administration and away from state schools Superintendent Tony Evers. Evers' office is nonpartisan, but he is often aligned with Democrats.

In another change, any complaints would have to be filed by school district residents equaling at least 10% of the district's student population. Currently, it takes only one person to make a filing that requires a hearing.

In a statement, Rep. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend, characterized the proposal as "a good step in recognizing that a single individual should not be able to dictate their will over a whole community and in the process deprive an entire group of people their right to due process."

"I hope my colleagues will join us in reversing the wrongs that we have imposed on many of our state's school districts [that have been forced to change Indian-themed names in recent years] by passing this legislation without delay," he continued. 

But Barbara Munson, an Oneida Indian who chairs the Wisconsin Indian Education Association's Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force, said the bill is nothing short of racist.

"That's terrible. That's anti-educational. It's racist," she told the AP. "For 21 years I've avoided that term. But it's almost impossible to... describe this particular action in any other way."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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