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Oregon Prohibits Native American Mascots in K-12

Oregon's state board of education voted 5-1 Thursday to ban K-12 public schools from using Native American mascots, giving any school affected by the new policy five years to make the change.

The new rule prohibits schools using any sort of reference to an American Indian Tribe (name, symbol, or image) as a mascot, team name, nickname, logo, or letterhead. Included in such prohibited names: "Savages," "Indians," "Chiefs," "Braves," and "Redskins." The latter four are all currently in use by professional sports teams in baseball and football.

The only tangentially related name to be spared the ax was "Warriors," so long as schools don't use it in combination "with a symbol or image that depicts or refers to an American Indian tribe, individual, custom, or tradition," according to the board's website.

At least 15 schools in the state will be affected by the change, The Oregonian reported.

"The testimony we received from students, members of the Native American community, and researchers regarding the impact of Native American mascots on student learning and self-esteem was extremely illuminating," said board member Serilda Summers-McGee in a statement. "It was imperative that we pass this rule and resolution to remove the use of Native American mascots in our public schools."

The change had been six years in the making, according to The Oregonian, started by a Native American student approaching the board in 2006 and requesting the change. The student's testimony spurred an advisory committee from the state education department to recommend a ban on all Native-American-affiliated mascots by Sept. 1, 2009, according to the paper.

Clearly, that recommendation didn't quite come to fruition as expected. Still, in the eyes of Native American advocates, better eight years later than never, right?

"Our role as educators needs to be to create a safe, supportive, and welcoming environment for all of our students—an environment which honors them for who they are as individuals with a rich and varied cultural history," said state schools Superintendent Susan Castillo. "We can no longer accept these stereotypical images for the sake of tradition—not when they are hurting our kids."

Compared with the Wisconsin mascot law passed in 2010, which allows residents of a school district to challenge names they find racially offensive, it's clear why the Associated Press said Oregon's new rule gives the state "some of the nation's toughest restrictions" on Native American logos, mascots, and names.

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