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Calif. Moving Toward Banning 'Redskins' as Mascot for Public High Schools

The California Assembly approved a bill Monday that would prohibit public schools throughout the state from using "Redskins" as a school or team name, mascot, or nickname.

The bill, which passed through the Assembly on a 60-9 vote, says "the use of racially derogatory or discriminatory school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames in California public schools is antithetical to the California school mission of providing an equal education to all." Thus, if the bill passes, all public schools in the state can no longer use "Redskins" in such a way beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

According to the Merced Sun-Star, four high schools still use Redskins as their mascot—Chowchilla Union High School, Gustine High School, Calaveras High School, and Tulare Union High School. Gustine Unified Superintendent Ronald Estes told the paper it would cost the district roughly $110,000 to switch to a different mascot.

"We won't fight it, we'll accept it, even though we disagree with it because our community disagrees with it," Campbell said. "Like any law, once it's signed we'll be compliant."

To help districts deal with the financial burden of such a swap, the bill does allow schools to temporarily continue using uniforms or other materials with the name Redskins so long as they were purchased before Jan. 1, 2017. Those schools must also have chosen a new team name, mascot, or nickname; refrain from purchasing or constructing new signs or marquees that include the name; and refrain from purchasing yearbooks, newspapers, or other similar materials with the name on it. Prior to Jan. 1, 2019, schools that have uniforms with the term may purchase up to 20 percent of their total uniforms to use as replacements.

If the commission on state mandates determines the bill contains state-mandated costs, California would help reimburse schools for making the required changes.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this marks the third time the California legislature has considered a ban on Native American-themed nicknames. A 2002 bill that included all Native American-themed mascots (such as "Indians," "Braves," etc.) failed in the state Legislature. Two years later, the Legislature passed a bill that only prohibited the use of "Redskins," but then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, saying, "decisions regarding athletic team names, nicknames, or mascots should be retained at the local level," per the paper. Like the 2004 bill, this current legislation only attempts to ban the "Redskins" term, and does not extend to other Native American-themed mascots, nicknames, or team names.

Back in 2012, Oregon's state board of education banned K-12 public schools from using Native American mascots, giving any school affected by the new policy five years to make the change. However, if California's bill passes, it would become the first state in the nation to ban such mascots legislatively, according to the National Congress of American Indians (via EdSource).

The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.


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