On Sunday, Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Racial Mascots Act, banning the use of the nickname “Redskins” for schools across the state.
Tulare Union, Chowchilla Union High, Gustine High in Merced County and Calaveras High in San Andreas will jettison the name entirely, while Colusa High and Mountain Empire in Pine Valley will alter their nicknamed to “Redhawks.” The schools have until January 2017 to make the change.
In one case, a school had a local Native American tribe supporting its resistance to the bill written by Assembly Member Luis Alejo (D-Salinas). The Tule River Tribal Council supported Tulare Union’s battle to keep its nickname, even writing a letter to the school district, which then forwarded the letter to Brown’s office. Tribal chairman Neil Peyron noted that the school “uses its mascot as a sign of pride and honor,” thus his tribe “support(s) the school district’s use of its mascot in this way.” Tulare Union has used the nickname since 1924.
Cathy Mederos, president of the Tulare Joint Union High School District board, expressed her disappointment over Brown’s decision to the Fresno Bee, saying:
The school isn’t just defined by the mascot. There’s a long history of academic and athletic success … and that’s not going to change. It’ll continue to be a great school. It’s not the first time the legislation has been put forward. I think we were optimistic that it may not be signed, but at the same time we obviously realized there was a possibility. I can’t say that it was a surprise.
District Superintendent Sarah Koligian allowed, “We will adhere to the law as it is written.” She told the Bee last month, “Changes to school facilities and uniforms could range anywhere from $700,000 to $1 million in expenses that are currently not in the district’s budget.”
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation in 2004.
Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians Executive Director Jackie Pata, who run a group called Change the Mascot, cited Brown’s decision to demand the NFL’s Washington Redskins change the team’s nickname. They asserted, “This landmark legislation eliminating the R-word in California schools clearly demonstrates that this issue is not going away, and that opposition to the Washington team on this issue is only intensifying. The NFL should act immediately to press the team to change the name,” according to The Los Angeles Times.