- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - A bill that would bar public schools from using athletic team names or mascots deemed derogatory would offer people offended by the symbols a way to change them, the proposal’s main sponsor said Friday.

The House Education committee considered the bill, but a vote is expected to come next week. Some communities in South Dakota aren’t sensitive to the effects the names and symbols have on Native Americans, particularly youth, said Democratic Rep. Shawn Bordeaux, the bill’s main House sponsor.

“It is time we hold people accountable who are teaching our children how to become good citizens with their tribal brethren and how to get along in the future years ahead of us,” Bordeaux said.

School districts in South Dakota have faced controversy over nicknames such as the Sisseton School District’s “Redmen” moniker. A group of student athletes at the nearby Tiospa Zina Tribal School unsuccessfully lobbied the district last year to change the nickname.

Fidelity Eastman, now a college student, pushed for the change. The nickname and mascot are derogatory and make her feel disheartened, Eastman said.

“You think we’re just a mascot? That’s all we’re good for, or that’s the only time we’re special?” said Eastman, who is a tribal member.

Under the bill, someone who finds a name or mascot racially offensive could file a complaint with the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

The association would have to consult with officials from the tribe with tribal land nearest the school district in question. If the tribal officials objected to the use of the name, the association would have to find that it is derogatory or discriminatory - and it would have to be discontinued.

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