State Assembly advances Redskins ban for public high schools

The state Assembly voted 59-7 in favor of a bill that would ban the use of the term “Redskins” as a mascot or nickname for public high schools in California on Monday.

The four high schools in California that still use Redskins as their mascot are Chowchilla in Madera County, Gustine in Merced County, Calaveras in Calaveras County and Tulare Union in Tulare County.

Assembly Bill 30 was written by Luis Alejo, a Democrat from Watsonville, and would prohibit the use of “Redskins” starting in 2017. The bill now will be sent to the state Senate.

Local representatives Adam Gray, D-Merced, and Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, voted no and Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals, abstained.

“People who live within the district should be the ones with the final say,” Chowchilla Union High School District Superintendent Ron Seals said. “Not Indian groups outside our district or outside our state. You don’t choose a mascot that is derogatory. You choose ones that you are proud of, that you love, cherish and respect.”

Calaveras Union School District Superintendent Mark Campbell said the school will make the changes if needed.

“If this is to be deemed the direction we’re going in, then we have a process in place,” he said. “We’ll make this positive, we’ll make this productive, and we’ll do what we have to do to be compliant.”

Seals said his district is in the process of trying to come up with a ballpark figure of what it will cost Chowchilla High to change its mascot from Redskins.

It’s not an easy switch when you consider gym floors and walls, banners, scoreboards, athletic uniforms, band uniforms and murals at the school would all have to be altered or phased out.

To help offset cost issues, the California Racial Mascots Act would allow schools to continue using uniforms and other items bearing the term Redskins that were purchased before Jan. 1, 2017, if the school selects a new mascot and doesn’t buy new uniforms with the old nickname.

Schools would be able to replace up to 20 percent of uniforms with the old name until Jan. 1, 2019.

Gustine Unified School District Superintendent Ronald Estes estimated it would cost $110,000 to phase out the use of Redskins in Gustine after the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media and the Committee on Education approved the bill in April.

“We won’t fight it, we’ll accept it, even though we disagree with it because our community disagrees with it,” Campbell said. “Like any law, once it’s signed we’ll be compliant.”

Sun-Star staff writer Shawn Jansen can be reached at (209) 385-2462 or sjansen@mercedsunstar.com.