By Shereen Siewert
Members of the Wausau School Board have unanimously approved a resolution to recommend legislation requiring school districts to retire Native American Mascots, one of three resolutions passed in recent months by the group.
Board President Tricia Zunker so far secured co-sponsorships from 14 school districts after personally reaching out to board members and school administrators around the state. In addition to discussions by phone and email, Zunker appeared personally at board meetings to make the co-sponsorship request in person. As of Wednesday school districts in Sun Prairie, Madison, Shorewood, Shawano, Appleton, Wauwatosa, Prescott, Sheboygan, LaCrosse, Milwaukee, D.C. Everest, Black River Falls, the Menomonie area and Lodi have joined in co-sponsoring the resolution, while members of the Green Bay Area School Board are set to vote on the matter on Sept. 11.
The deadline for the submission is Sept. 15. From there, the matter will proceed to the policy resolution committee within the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. If approved, it will be submitted for all participating school boards to vote on in January 2020.
In 2005, the American Psychological Association called for the immediate retirement of Native American mascots because they undermine the educational experience of all students, Native and non-Native. In other words, this topic has long left the realm of personal opinion and is purely a matter of educational policy supported by peer-reviewed, credible research, Zunker said.
“Retaining them in our school districts is an offensive and intolerable practice that negatively impacts all students,” Zunker said. “Even for school districts like Wausau who don’t have Native American mascots, our students are still unwillingly exposed to them at scholastic and athletic events around the state.”
The resolution calls the continued use of Native American mascots offensive and intolerable, an issue that “establishes an unwelcome, divisive and hostile learning environment for Native American students that affirms negative stereotypes that are promoted in mainstream society.”
Absent from the list of co-sponsors is Mosinee High School, where students in 2017 led an initiative to change the “Indians” mascot, a request that was ultimately rejected by the school board by a vote of 5-3.
The resolution has the support of the Indian Mascot and Logo Task Force within the Wisconsin Indian Education Association. Read the full resolution, below.
In addition to the mascot resolution the board also put forward a resolution to prohibit lunch shaming and a resolution in support of full-time substitute teachers.
Top photo: Wausau Board of Education President Tricia Zunker addresses the Madison Metropolitan School Board requesting their support of co-sponsorship of the Wausau mascot resolution. Photo credit: Jay Stahl