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School mascot measure vetoed

Schwarzenegger rejects legislation that would have banned use of the term 'Redskin' for sports teams.

By Aurelio Rojas -- Sacrameto Bee Capitol Bureau Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Citing a desire to maintain local control, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday vetoed legislation that would have banned public schools from using "Redskins" as a team or mascot name. In his veto message, the governor said local school boards should retain "general control over all aspects of their interscholastic policies," including team names and mascots.

"Adding another nonacademic state administrative requirement for schools to comply with takes more focus away from getting kids to learn at the highest level," Schwarzenegger said in vetoing AB 858.

The measure's author, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, said she was disappointed with the governor's "lack of sensitivity" and called his veto message "silly."

"If local control is what you count on to decide civil rights issues, we'd still have slavery in America," the former school board member and teacher said in an interview.

Goldberg also dismissed the governor's contention that the legislation would burden schools with another nonacademic state requirement.

"Give me a break - there's only five schools in the whole state that this affects," she noted, adding that schools would have had until January 2006 to implement the bill.

Only five schools - Calaveras High School, Chowchilla Union High School, Colusa High School, Gustine High School and Tulare Union High School - use "Redskins" as a team name.

In an interview last week with Sacramento radio station KFBK, the governor complained about the blizzard of "silly" bills sent to him by the Legislature, and cited the school mascot legislation.

Goldberg said, however, the word "redskin" offends American Indians and resurrects a painful period in their history.

"The word 'redskin' refers to the skin being turned red when you scalp somebody," she said. "The process of scalping began in the 1600s when white settlers were paid by governments for killing Indians."

She also noted that most dictionaries refer to the word as a "derogatory term," including Webster's Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary.

Meanwhile, Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, and Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Salinas, issued statements praising the Republican governor.

Oller called the bill "political correctness run amok" and said the bill would have cost schools thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses.

But Goldberg noted her bill allowed schools to use uniforms bearing the "Redskins" name until the uniforms wore out or the school selected a new mascot name.

The proposed ban also applied to school publications, marquees and signs.

"The whole thing is ridiculous," said Oller, whose district includes Calaveras High School. "In San Andreas, 'Redskins' is a noble term. It has been an honored term for a long time.

"People can make anything ignoble if they want to. What's next - bullfrogs, because they are green and slimy?"

Denham, whose district includes Gustine High School, said: "The Legislature should be focused on improving public education, and not on micromanaging school athletics programs."

A similar bill by Goldberg failed in the Assembly last year.

"My third (attempt) will begin in December," Goldberg said, saying she will introduce another bill when the new legislative session convenes.


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Last modified: Spetember 22, 2004

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