MADISON, Wis. (AP, WEAU) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill making it harder to force public schools to drop American Indian nicknames.
The Republican bill changes a 2010 state law that required Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction to hold a hearing on a school's race-based nickname if it received even one complaint.
The new bill requires people with a complaint to submit a petition with signatures equal to 10 percent of the school district's student population to trigger a review. They must prove the nickname is discriminatory at a hearing. The Department of Administration, which is under the governor's control, decides whether to drop the name.
"If it was up to me, I’d find a way a way to change things the names, but at the same time I had to find a way to weigh that against a basic token in this country which is freedom of speech," Walker said.
“It'd be freedom of speech for who? I guess that's what you'd want to ask,” Ho Chunk Nation heritage preservation executive director Robert Mann said.
“It's not fair to the schools that have changed and conformed to the previous ones.”
Mann said many of the school mascots were formed to honor Native Americans, but times have changed.
“The town I grew up in had a very close relationship with the Native Americans in that community. And i believe those were some of the reasons those were created, to respect them. It's not so true today as it was then.”
“It’s unfortunate that times have forced us to change our opinion about things.”
“We've heard both sides, and it's come to we've just come to the conclusion that it's just time to move on generally. Think it's just getting to the point where something new, another controversy will be around the corner and then we'll have to deal with that one. For this, put it to rest and let's move on,” he said.
Mann said he has a much stronger opinion against college and professional teams that use Native American mascots because he said they're using them for their own financial gain and not out of respect.
The law will go into effect Saturday.
MADISON, Wis. (WEAU) --Governor Scott Walker says he has signed a bill into law that will make it harder to force public schools to drop Indian nicknames.
On Thursday afternoon, Governor Walker issued the following statement:
After careful consideration of the arguments, both for and against this bill, I have decided to sign it into law. The bill creates a process by which the citizens in the communities affected have input and direct involvement in the undertaking of changing a school mascot.
I am very concerned about the principle of free speech enshrined in our U.S. Constitution. If the state bans speech that is offensive to some, where does it stop? A person or persons’ right to speak does not end just because what they say or how they say it is offensive. Instead of trying to legislate free speech, a better alternative is to educate people about how certain phrases and symbols that are used as nicknames and mascots are offensive to many of our fellow citizens. I am willing to assist in that process.
With that in mind, I personally support moving away from nicknames or mascots that groups of our fellow citizens find seriously offensive, but I also believe it should be done with input and involvement at the local level.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Scott Walker is telling Wisconsin's American Indian tribes he will sign a bill that will make it harder to force public schools to drop Indian nicknames.
Walker sent a letter to tribal leaders Thursday morning telling them he will sign the measure. He says he shares concerns about tribal mascots and nicknames in Wisconsin and across the country but is worried current state law infringes on free speech. He says a person's right to speak doesn't end just because what they say is offensive.
He says the best route is to educate people about how some phrases and symbols are offensive when used as nicknames and mascots.
Walker's deadline to sign or veto the bill is Thursday. If he were to take no action, the bill would become law.