2.21.2010

Making mascots PC - This is a really bad bill

Up for a vote on Tuesday, Wisconsin Assembly Bill 35 seeks to bar public schools from having "race−based names, nicknames, logos, and mascots." 

It sounds patently unconstitutional to me:

a school district resident may object to the use of a race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot by the school board of that school district by filing a complaint with the state superintendent.

Race-based name or nickname of what?  Of the mascot, which could also inherently be deemed racist?  The text doesn't really specify.  Also, what is a race-based name?

At the hearing, the school board has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the use of the race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot does not promote discrimination, pupil harassment, or stereotyping, as defined by the state superintendent by rule.

So the name/mascot, etc. is, after a complaint is filed, presumed BY DEFAULT to promote discrimination and the school board has a burden to prove otherwise?  The State Superintendent does not have discretion, according to the bill's text, to refrain from instituting a hearing after a complaint.  Plus, the standard of proof for the school board is "clear and convincing evidence" - a rather high standard and a vague one.

If the state superintendent finds that the use of the race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot promotes discrimination, pupil harassment, or stereotyping, the state superintendent shall order the school board to terminate its use of the race−based name, nickname, logo, or mascot.

"Stereotyping" - what does that consist of in the end?  Need it be tangible harm or merely a sense that stereotyping of some nebulous sort is occurring?  Does a Viking mascot, for example, cause stereotyping?  What about a nickname that the locals have for an otherwise innocuous mascot that the school has no control over?  What if a mascot that promotes stereotyping in the eyes of the State Superintendent is based in a school district's local history?

The bill permits the State Superintendent to promulgate rules to enforce the statute, but I think the absurd overreach of the bill on its face - which is really a means of state approval of certain ideas - means anything the Superintendent devises will likely be inappropriate.

I hope the bill gets shot down.