The Weyauwega-Fremont School District has eliminated its team mascot, stopped using its nickname at school events and redesigned its logo.
The district’s nickname has been the Indians for at least 40 years, but instead of using an Indian as its mascot, the district has a motion W-F for its logo.
During the school board’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, the school district’s nickname was discussed.
High School Principal Scott Bleck said Weyauwega-Fremont is “on the radar,” because the Osseo-Fairchild and Kewaunee schools have been in the news the last several weeks due to their nicknames.
Last May, Gov. Jim Doyle signed a law that allows any resident of a school district to complain about race-based team names and logos to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).
If the state superintendent holds a hearing and finds that the district’s name is discriminatory or stereotypes a race, the district has one year to change its name or be fined $1,000 per day.
DPI recently held a hearing about rules related to how the law will be enforced.
Under the proposal, schools would have to prove that their names and mascots are not race based and do not promote discrimination, student harassment and stereotypes.
Bleck told the board that when the high school gym floor was resurfaced this summer, the word “Indians” was removed from the floor.
“I believe the Indians character is on the band marching uniforms,” he said when asked if the district’s old logo remains anywhere in the school.
Some of the high school band uniforms date back to 1982. He said it would cost thousands of dollars to refit the band.
“It would take someone from the community to come forward,” Bleck said. “Then, we would start with the board. The DPI would then look at it to see if we are critically depicting or defacing Native American culture.”
School Board President Neal Loehrke asked board members Monday if anyone is interested in looking at changing the district’s nickname before someone comes forward.
Board member Tony Beyer said the district does not have a mascot now, meaning the students do not have one to rally around. “We’re losing that aspect,” he said.
Bleck said it is the decision of the board whether to be proactive.
When board member Chuck Burgess asked what kind of feedback there has been from the students, Bleck said he believes the consensus is that the students are proud of their nickname.
The name “Weyauwega” is said to be of Menominee heritage and to mean “here we rest.”
Board member Jim Stuebs said he does not think the community would want to change the school’s nickname unless it was forced to.
“If someone comes forward, we’ll address it,” Bleck said.