Bill Ends Offensive School Names, Mascots

Feb 22, 2016

Credit Jenifer Jones

A bill that creates a process to ban racially charged school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames, is moving forward in the South Dakota Legislature.

House Bill 1147 says South Dakota residents who believe public school names are offensive can file a complaint with the South Dakota High School Activities Association. The association will review the complaint and consult with officials from the tribe closest to the school district. If tribal officials object to the use of the name, the bill stops the school from using it...but it does offer an appeal process.

Opponents of the measure say it takes away local control. Wade Pogany is with the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.
 
“It’s important that our communities deal with these issues that affect our kids,” Pogany says. “And these are local issues. These are local issues that affect race relations, these are local issues that local leaders need to step up and address. But it should be local leaders that solve these problems, not someone outside the community. Not some other entity that is completely not tied to that community directly or this kind of relations. My concern is that this bill changes the venue where those problems need to be addressed, and where those decisions need to be made.”
 
The bill’s supporters say derogatory mascots and names harm students’ self-esteem and self-worth. Senator Troy Heinert says local leaders have failed to address the issue.

 
“It’s been tried to be worked on at the local level,” Heinert says. “It’s not happening. And I think there’s probably been good conversation. But we need to say, okay, enough’s enough. We understand that you’re proud of your school. We’re not trying to take that away from you. But don’t be proud of your school or their ceremonies at the expense of us.”
 
 Members of the House Education Committee voted ten to four to send House Bill 1147 to the House floor for further debate.