It’s all fun and games until somebody gets offended — at least in Wisconsin, the first state in the country to ban politically incorrect public school mascots, specifically those considered offensive to Native Americans.
The ban, signed into law by then-Gov. Jim Doyle in May 2010, does not take full effect until 2013, but schools are already beginning to change their nicknames if they are deemed to be offensive — due to the law’s provision that provides residents an outlet to lodge a formal complaint with the state superintendent. If a mascot is determined to be race-based, the offending school must cease to use it.
To date five schools have changed their mascots, including Menomonie School District, which announced last Tuesday that it will be changing its mascot from the “Indians” to the “Mustangs.”
Media Trackers, a conservative Wisconsin-based government accountability group, issued a report this week explaining that school districts being forced to change their mascots are incurring significant costs due to practical modifications to uniforms, equipment, supplies and sports facilities.
The cost of the change will not be inexpensive. The Mukwonago School District, one of the five districts that already has had to adopt a new symbol, expects their mascot switch will cost about $50,000.
“We estimate that number to buy new athletic uniforms paint the gym redo a floor and other smaller items,” Superintendent Paul Strobel wrote TheDC in an email. “We have not done all this work because we have received an extension to keep our logo until Jan. 2013.”
Dennis Geissler, superintendent of the Osseo-Fairchild School District, another district making a switch, told TheDC that the cost to his district could be anywhere between $25,000 to $50,00.
“We are a school district of about 1000 student in rural Wisconsin. We estimate the cost without uniforms to be $30,000,” he wrote in an email. “$20,000 to redo the gym(s) and another $10,000 for miscellaneous cost including the time staff has to spend on the process. If you add in uniform changes with logos on them then you may have to double that figure… it depends on what type of uniforms we are talking about. The range could be anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.”
Bill Prijic, district administrator for the Kewaunee School District, confirmed to TheDC that the cost of their mascot change will be about $10,000.
Berlin School District, another of the five implementing a switch, is still working on tallying the cost.
“We just learned we will have to change our mascot and do not have the numbers all put together at this time,” Berlin School District Superintendent Bob Eidahl told TheDC.
Chris Stratton, district administrator for the Menomonie School District, told TheDC that her district will have to spend less than others, as its former logo was not on school uniforms and because the gym’s floor was already being re-surfaced.
“It will not cost the district more than four to five thousand dollars,” Stratton wrote in an email. “We did not have the name Indian or any logo’s on existing uniforms. The gym floor was scheduled for routine maintenance this past summer while we were in the process of changing the name. The cost was approximately $3000 to replace the wording on the floor. The remaining costs will be in new signage for score tables, etc. It is minimal.”
According to American Indian Cultural Support, there are 45 schools in Wisconsin with mascots offensive to Native Americans.