The Madison School Board called on Monday for Wisconsin schools to stop using Native American mascots, nicknames, symbols, logos and images.
The board unanimously passed a resolution that asks for the state association which represents school boards to lobby for legislation that would end the use of the nicknames and logos. The resolution originated from the Wausau School Board, which has also unanimously approved it, Tricia Zunker, the president of the northern Wisconsin city’s school board, said at the meeting.
Zunker, who is also an associate justice on the Ho-Chunk Nation Supreme Court, said the intent behind the resolution is to end “culture shaming” and urged Madison officials to join in the call for retiring Native American symbols in schools.
“This is just one step we can do. There is so much more we can do,” School Board member Ananda Mirilli said about making schools more welcoming for Native Americans.
According to the resolution, about 31 of the 421 Wisconsin school districts use a Native American mascot, logo or name. Madison is not one of them.
The resolution will be submitted to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards with the goal of having association members vote on the resolution at an annual conference in January that would then have the association lobby for legislation to end the use of the mascots, nicknames and logos.
Board President Gloria Reyes said other districts across Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Sun Prairie and Shawano, are slated to vote on a similar resolution as well.
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After six years heading up the Madison School District, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham attended her last regular board meeting Monday.
The seven board members took turns sharing stories and giving public farewells to Cheatham.
“You’re leaving a legacy here, and you have set the foundation for us in this community to really tackle race relations and the challenges moving forward,” Reyes said.
“That was maybe one of the most special moments of my life right then,” Cheatham said after board members finished speaking.
She thanked the board members for serving in what she said is often a “thankless job” and encouraged them to continue seeking the position to bring stability to the body.
Cheatham leaves in August for a teaching position at Harvard University.
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Shawano.]