Friday, November 27, 2015

Possible ban on Native American mascots could be costly to Colorado schools

By Arthur Kane

As Coloradans around the state gather today to enjoy Thanksgiving football, another group is planning to determine how to handle schools that use mascots some say disparage Native Americans.

Some schools with potentially offensives mascots fear any commission recommendations for legislation or other action will cost them and their taxpayers money better used for teaching students.

Randy Miller, superintendent of the Eaton School District outside of Fort Collins and Greeley, said it would cost the district between $100,000 and $200,000 to redo the arena floors, signage and uniforms if schools couldn’t use their “Little Braves” and “Reds” mascot names. It’s money he said he can’t afford to spend.

“Quite honestly, my contention is if my community wants the change and the school board wants to change, I don’t have a problem with it, but as a school district there is going to be a negative impact on the budget,” he said.

Gov. John Hickenlooper formed a commission last month to study the apparent problem of schools that use Native America mascots ranging from the more innocuous Indians and Warriors to potentially racist nicknames like Savages and Marauders.

“The use of these images and names may be steeped in local traditions and important to community identity, but they may also reinforce negative stereotypes about American Indians and limit public knowledge about actual indigenous culture and heritage,” Hickenlooper’s executive order states.

A bill that would have imposed a $25,000 fine on schools using unapproved Native American mascots failed last session, and Walt Cooper, superintendent of the Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 in Colorado Springs and member of the commission, said he hopes they can find a compromise that will satisfy most people on both sides.

“I’m a believer that there are no absolutes,” said Cooper, who has a high school in his district using an “Indians” mascot. “There are people who want to do it right and find a solid middle ground both opponents and advocates can accept.”

Cooper said one proposal is to remove names that are clearly derogatory but allow schools to keep names that are more descriptive.

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