The School District of Menomonie Area Board of Education voted 4-2 to approve a resolution by the Wausau Area School Board that would ban all mascots, symbols, images, nicknames and titles associated with Native Americans within public schools in the state.
The resolution asks state lawmakers to introduce legislation that would end the use of Native American mascots in Wisconsin.
Board member Chris Freeman said the resolution is being written so that the state of Wisconsin fulfills its obligation that all people are treated well and given their dignity. The resolution Freeman said explains by American Psychology Association the trauma caused to Native American when their history is misused.
“When we think about what rights we have for laying claim to culture and identity if you look at the mascots, they’re blatant,” Freeman said. “They display Native Americans as savages...spear chuckers.”
Board member David Styer said when looking back at when the board unanimously decided to change its mascot to the Mustangs, he felt the board should stay out of the decision that affects other districts.
“I see no reason why our district should be involved in something that gets to the point where we are telling other districts how to handle their own business,” Styer said. “We have enough things to take care of in our district, we don’t need to be trying to police other districts and tell them what to do.”
Board member Jim Swanson said he supports the resolution because Native American students within the district have to travel to other schools for athletic events or other activities. He said it’s the job of the board to support all students. To not pass the resolution would show a lack of support for the Native American students in the district, Swanson said.
“People have realized in the history the way Native people have been treated in the United States, that these mascots are wrong and they need to be dealt with and we’re being asked to help with that process,” Swanson said.
The resolution has been supported unanimously by districts in Eau Claire, Madison and Sun Prairie, board president Amy Riddle-Swanson said.
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Menomonie resident Dick Hanson said the issue is divisive but shouldn’t be made by school board members in Menomonie or by the department of education, the governor or the courts.
“Don’t lend your authoritative view to affect other school districts,” Nelson said to the board. “Your election as school board puts you in authority. Do not use that authority to promote an agenda that isn’t based on the voters’ needs.”
Board member Clint Moses said the resolution is vague with a lot of gray area that opens things up for symbols. He said it isn’t a productive use of the board’s time and they should be focusing on topics like student achievement.
“We’ve already made the decision,” Moses said. “Look at what Menomonie did in the ‘90s. I don’t think we need to revote on this again.”
While board member Penny Burstad said districts should remove offensive mascots, it is up to the individual districts to make the change and the school board shouldn’t be making the decision for other districts.
“They need to do the right thing the same way that Menomonie did back in the ‘90s,” Burstad said.
The board also discussed raising wages for substitute teachers. A report would be created and brought before the board in an upcoming meeting, district administrator Joe Zydowsky said.
The district is expecting a higher level of maternity/paternity leaves during the school year than usual, Zydowsky said. The reason to raise is to make the district more comparable to other districts in the area when the pool for substitute teachers is declining. The recommendations would be to increase the daily rate for substitute teachers from $108.08 to $115 per day. Long-term substitute pay would increase from $128.52 to $211.86.