Last Thursday, the District 2 Court of Appeals in Waukesha overturned a decision by Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Donald Hassin Jr. that allowed the Mukwonago Area Schools to retain its Indian nickname and logo. At the moment the District faces a January 15th deadline to make the change. Obviously that will have to be extended.
“What we’ve done today as a result of the ruling is we’ve contacted legislators and written them a letter asking them to permanently repeal that law so this matter can finally be resolved,” said Mukwonago School Superintendent Paul Strobel.
While it is easy to understand Dr. Strobel’s wish to get this thing out of the way so he can concentrate on other matters, the District decided to forego its right to appeal the original decision in favor of a lawsuit by two area men, not legally connected to the original complaint. And the ruling by the appellate judge essentially says that the Department of Public Instruction followed the rules under the law and issued a proper decision procedurally. How you feel about the actual decision may vary.
The Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council and the Wisconsin Indian Education Association have filed an amicus brief in the case that puts the focus squarley on the educational issues and civil rights issues presented by the case at: http://www.indianmascots.com/brief_of_amici_curiae_great.pdf
Strobel’s desire to have the legislature repeal the law tells us a couple of things. First, the school district knows it cannot win this case in the courts or is unlikely to. Second, and most importantly it says they still do not grasp the essentials of the case.
Forget about the character of the individual and original complainant in the case. Forget about the cost to school districts for at least a few minutes here. Forget about the constitutionality of the law.
What this case and others where districts have Indian nicknames and logos comes down to is this:
Using racial or ethnic stereotypes in the K-12 School Environment where impressionable children are present damages them psychologically according to a massive body of scientific evidence.
To boil this down further:
We know it’s morally wrong and psychologically damaging to use racial stereotypes of black people. Therefore, it’s morally wrong and psychologically damaging to use racial stereotypes of Native-Americans.
Units of government do not and cannot discriminate and stereotype minority groups. The Mukwonago Area Schools and all of its elected and appointed leaders as well as their legal counsel have had this body of scientific evidence in front of them for at least two years now. The rest of us have known about this for much longer.
It would not be odd to find that using racial stereotypes of blacks being wrong and damaging to blacks you would certainly expect to find via research that the same dynamic is operating with regard to Native-Americans.
Struggles for Justice quite frankly believes that for some reason, the dominant white majority in Wisconsin places less value on the welfare and proper treatment of Native-Americans than they do of any other racial or ethnic minority. It is that simple.
Mukwonago School Officials yet fail to grasp these essentials. Or if they do, they are stubbornly resisting doing the right thing.