LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak signed Assembly Bill 88 into law Friday, which prohibits the use of racially discriminatory names, logos, mascots or songs in Nevada’s K-12 schools.
"My initial thoughts, as a Paiute woman, is it's about time," said Stacey Montooth, Executive Director of the Nevada Indian Commission.
The law goes into effect in July 2022, according to a Clark County School District communications professional. CCSD schools might be asked to rebrand certain schools.
One of the main intents behind the new law is to have each school district in Nevada come up with a policy regarding the sensitivity of school mascots. CCSD already has a policy, Policy 1101, that states mascots shall be respectful of diverse cultural values. The difference now, is the law adds Native American representation to the Nevada State Board on Geographic Names, and the district will need to consult with tribal members on mascots that come into question.
"The law requires some dialogue," said Montooth.
The bill has since been amended, but when the bill was first introduced, CCSD drafted a fiscal note listing the following schools as being "[potentially] impacted" for rebranding:
- High Schools: Cheyenne, Western, Foothill, Del Sol Academy.
- Middle Schools: Jim Bridger, John C. Fremont, Robert O. Gibson, Mario C. & Joanne Monaco, and Theron L. Swainston
- Elementary Schools: Mark L. Fine, Fong, Wing and Lilly, J.E. Manch, Wayne N. Tanaka, Bill Y. Tomiyasu, J. M. Ullom, H. P. Fitzgerald, William E. Ferron, Robert L. Forbuss, Charles and Phyllis Frias, Gordon McCaw, (already in progress) Kit Carson International Academy Elementary School
Most schools were listed for potentially offensive mascots. Fremont and Carson Junior High Schools were listed specifically because of their school’s name.
In a public record email, Joshua Chesnik, a Director of Facilities Management at CCSD, wrote that the biggest expense could be high schools.
He wrote, "High schools would need murals changed and gym floors refinished and painted... Secondary schools with sports programs have mascot designs and logos all over campus."
If any schools were asked to rebrand, he estimates $100,000 in costs per high school, $75,000 for middle schools, and $50,000 for elementary schools, conservatively.
Montooth said mascots, songs and logos that appropriate Native American culture can do harm to the self-esteem of native youth.
"When thousands of people are packed into a gymnasium, and ya know, chanting the tomahawk chop, or ya know, you have a non-native dressed up in pan-Indianism regalia," said Montooth. "These kinds of images are very detrimental to not just your self-esteem, your self-worth, but where you're placed in the society."
FOX5 alerted Principal Keith France at Monaco Middle School of his school mascot, the Thunderhawks.
The Thunderhawks were listed on the district’s list for possible rebranding
"I'm not sure why that would be offensive, but I am very open to hear other opinions about that, because I don't think a logo should ever be offensive to anybody. It's a logo," said France.
He said he wouldn't have an issue changing it if natives do find it offensive.
"They should be able to look at it, because maybe they can tell us something that we're missing," said France.
When FOX5 asked CCSD families for their feedback on social media, many expressed disapprovals and questioned the offensive nature of mascots.
Brandi Rollins went to Cheyenne High School. Their logo is a "Desert Shield."
"When I went to school, no one dressed up in headdresses or anything," said Brandi Rollins, who went to Cheyenne High School. "So, I don't think anybody's doing that... I could be wrong. I don't know how it could be offensive. It's a shield, but I could see how someone could maybe take offense to it?"
Social media user Phil Bourekas said, "I have Greek heritage…We have Pahrump Valley Trojans… it never bothered me historically. If modern society judges cultural appropriation as a wrong to be righted... why is it ok to appropriate my heritage, but wrong if it is Native American?"
Montooth said there is an important difference.
"That's not a community or an ethnicity -- or better yet -- a citizenship of people who have been suppressed for nearly 200 years by the United States government."
Another topic dividing folks is the financial impacts.
"This money could go to something to help the schools, not just repaint a picture on the front of the school," said Rollins.
Montooth added, "But I look at this more as an investment. It really isn't a cost, it's an investment. It's an investment in equality, an investment in social justice."
The CCSD Communications Office said that conversations will certainly be had among community partners and groups before any swift decisions are made on rebranding.
The law will also mandate that towns and cities no longer blare sirens before sundown, something northern Nevada towns like Minden had continued to do. Historically, this practice was aimed at Native Americans, requiring them to leave town a half-hour after a siren blared at sundown.