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New measures would change complaint procedures of Native American team names

Falls to keep proactive approach if complaints filed

Nov. 12, 2013

Menomonee Falls — The state Senate on Nov. 5 passed a measure that would make it easier for Menomonee Falls High School to keep its Indians team nickname.

The bill, which makes it harder to force schools to change their logos, mascots and team names, is now in the hands of Gov. Scott Walker. It passed 17-16 in the Senate. The Assembly passed the bill last month, 52-41.

In 2010, a law was put into place that requires the Department of Public Instruction to hold a hearing and decide whether a school is allowed to keep its race-based mascot and team names whenever it receives a complaint. If a hearing is called, the School District has to prove that it does not promote discrimination or stereotyping. Under the current law, a complaint at Mukwonago Area School District spurred a public hearing and DPI said the district had to drop its Indians name or be fined. The district refused to comply.

Menomonee Falls has not had a single complaint filed, Superintendent Patricia Greco said. However, the Falls School Board did eliminate the use of the headdress in its logo and switched to an "F" and feather as the high school's logo in response to concerns raised in 2010-11.

Greco said the board's intent has been to honor the heritage of the community and the system, without dishonoring any individuals.

"The focus has been on being proactive and responsive," she said in an email.

Under the new proposal, the burden of proof shifts from the schools to the person filing the complaint. That person would have to prove discrimination. The complaints of racial discrimination, harassment or stereotyping would also only be considered if someone submitted signatures from district residents equal to 10 percent of the district's student population.

Because of these measures, those who oppose the bill call have called it racist.

If the new bill passes and a formal complaint were filed in Menomonee Falls, the board would respond using its regular process in response to concerns. Concerns are reviewed by School Board committee, then a work session with the full board would be scheduled.

— Danielle Switalski

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