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Redskins Still Rule at Calaveras High

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave added meaning this past Tuesday to Calaveras High School´s 2004 homecoming slogan “Standing Our Ground,” for that´s just what the replica wooden Indians in the school´s administrative offices will do for at least another year.

And the school´s Class of 2005, self-identified earlier this year as “Last of the Redskins,” may want to reconsider its epithet following the governor´s veto of Assembly Bill 858.

The so-called “California Racial Mascots Act” proposed by Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, would have prohibited public schools from using “Redskins” as a school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname. The ban would have affected five schools in the state n Calaveras, Chowchilla Union, Colusa, Gustine and Tulare Union high schools.

“Existing statute already affords local school boards general control over all aspects of their interscholastic athletic policies, programs, and activities, Schwarzenegger said in his veto message to the State Assembly. “Decisions regarding athletic teams´ names, nicknames or mascots should be retained at the local level.”

“At a time when we should all be working together to increase the academic achievement of all California´s students, adding another non-academic state administrative requirement for schools to comply with takes more focus away from getting kids to learn at the highest levels,” he added.

Sen. Rico Oller, R-San Andreas, whose district encompasses Calaveras High School, issued a statement praising the governor after the veto.

“This is a common-sense move from Gov. Schwarzenegger and I wholeheartedly support his decision to veto this wasteful legislation,” Oller said. “The bill was political correctness run amuck, and would have cost schools thousands of dollars in unnecessary expenses.”

Oller argued passionately against the bill on the Senate floor during the final days of the legislative session that ended last month. It was estimated that, had the bill become law, it would have cost the five affected schools nearly $100,000 each to abandon use of the Redskins mascot.

“It was a good move. A very good move,” Calaveras High School Principal Mark Campbell said of the governor´s veto. “Most people here are very happy.”

Noting this is homecoming week at Calaveras High, Campbell added, “This makes it a little sweeter.”

Gloria Grimes, tribal leader of the West Point Band of MiWuk, said she was glad the bill was not allowed to become law.

“I wrote a letter of support to Mr. Campbell to keep the Redskin name. A lot of our people up here went to Calaveras. I went to Calaveras and so did my kids. We never felt discriminated against by the use of ‘Redskins,´” Grimes said. “In different ways, it could be used in a derogatory manner, but it has never been used that way here for as long as I know of.”

“I´m happy as heck,” said parent and Calaveras alumnus Steve Farrell of Glencoe. “It´s amazing the people who have never been up in this area, who don´t know how we live up here, make these judgments. Nobody here has ever seen Redskins in any way except as pride for Indian culture. This is another case of ‘do gooders´ trying to force their uninformed views down our throats.

“I´m happy we finally have a ‘safety valve´ for insane legislation that gets shoved through. We have a governor who can actually stop it, instead of letting it pass over his desk,” Farrell said.

Another alumnus, Calaveras High English teacher Allison Hampton, said she had “mixed feelings” about the governor´s veto of the bill.

“I understand the whole ‘Redskin´ thing,” she said. “It IS a derogatory term, but it´s a bad time, money-wise, to change it, when we have kids without books, to spend millions on new uniforms and logos.”

The lawmakers in Sacramento have too much time on their hands, according to Calaveras science teacher John Kenney.

“They can pass legislation like this, but they can´t balance the budget,” Kenney said.

“I´m very happy that we get to keep the Redskins as a mascot. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous,” said Denise Willows, Calaveras High office assistant. “I think they have better things to do in the Capitol than worry about a school´s mascot.

“I´m glad my daughter will get to graduate as a Redskin,” she added.

At Colusa High School in the upper Sacramento Valley, which also has a long-standing Redskins tradition, reaction to the governor´s move was mixed, according to Vice-Principal Paul Johnson.

“Those who wanted (Redskins) to stay, were glad. On the other hand, some people thought it should be changed. Others want to change it so they don´t have the (Colusa Indian Bingo) casino telling them what to do or not giving any money to the school because of it,” Johnson said.

“Personally, I would change it just so we don´t have to be stepping on egg shells all the time. Why have a mascot you can´t have fun with? Because, you´re always worried about offending someone.”

In the Merced County town of Gustine, where Gustine High is another Redskin school, the whole community is “elated” over the governor´s veto, Vice-Principal Ed Cheek said.

“We have parents who were born and raised here n who went to school here 30, 40 years ago. They´re just elated,” he said.

The school´s principal, Karen Larsen, and the district´s superintendent have been pushing the issue since they first heard about it and made several trips to Sacramento to talk to legislators, according to Cheek.

“The idea that someone from Los Angeles can say a high school, a middle school n any school n cannot have an Indian mascot is not acceptable,” Cheek said. “There are too many big things to worry about. This is ridiculous. They have too much time on their hands.”

Following Tuesday´s veto by Schwarzenegger, Goldberg said she would introduce another bill regarding school mascots in the next session of the Legislature, which begins in December, according to an article in Wednesday´s Sacramento Bee.

Whether the bill will be in the same form as this most recent attempt “to prohibit public schools from using certain specified terms as a school or athletic team name, mascot, or nickname,” or another has not been determined.

“It was vetoed yesterday,” Goldberg´s legislative director, Sophia Kim, said Wednesday. “We haven´t had a chance to discuss it yet.”

“Assemblywoman Goldberg is free as a legislator to do what she wants, but I think the governor has spoken fairly clearly on this issue,” said Bill Bird, Sen. Oller´s communications director.

“I´m proud to still be a Redskin,” senior Lisa Smith said upon learning of the governor´s veto of the “Redskin” bill, “and I couldn´t be more excited.”

“I´m kind of happy,” said junior Lindsey Moe. “My mom and sister graduated here as Redskins, and I´m glad I can graduate as a Redskin too.”

“I think it´s good. The school won´t have to change all its stuff. That would take a lot of money,” Calaveras junior Mallory Willows said.

“The school is going to be 100 years old next year. They shouldn´t change something that´s been here so long,” she added.

“I´m excited. It´s been part of our community for a long time,” sophomore Bret Belshe said. “I have friends and relatives who have been Redskins. I´m really glad (the governor) vetoed it.”

The veto was a good thing, sophomore Matthew Thein said.

“I thought it would be pretty messed up if they took (Redskins) away from us.”

“Oh, awesome,” said junior Katie Clark when informed of the governor´s veto. “I was hoping it wouldn´t pass. All the local Native Americans had no problem with it. I read somewhere that some had graduated from here.”

“It´s awesome,” senior Sam Meyers said. “We get to keep our own name. We wouldn´t be as united without it.”

Both of Meyers´ parents, his sister and two brothers, his grandparents, and numerous aunts and uncles are Calaveras graduates.

Goldberg´s crusade to eliminate “derogatory” and “discriminatory” mascot names from the state´s public schools with AB 858 has pitted the Democratic majority in the California Legislature against Republican legislators and Democratic representatives of rural districts over the past two years.

The bill was first introduced Feb. 20, 2003 as the Jerry Ballesteros Act, in honor of a Native American who dedicated his life to eliminating racially derogatory mascots after experiencing “the isolation, harassment, and constant trivialization of his culture.” It sought to ban the use of Redskins, Indians, Braves, Chiefs, Apaches, Comanches and Papooses, Warriors and Sentinels n if accompanied by Native American imagery, and any other Native American tribal name for school or athletic team names, mascots, or nicknames.

After author´s amendments on April 10 that changed its title to California Racial Mascots Act and eliminated all references to Jerry Ballesteros, the bill passed through the Assembly´s Education and Appropriations committees. However, it was refused passage June 5 on a 37-31 vote on the Assembly floor. Granted permission to bring it back later, Goldberg moved, and got approval, to put it on the inactive file, where it remained until Jan. 21, 2004.

After the bill was amended to provide a 2006 effective date, the bill passed the Assembly 43-23 on Jan. 29 and was sent to the Senate. On Feb. 20, Goldberg again amended the bill, leaving only “Redskins” as its target. Following Senate amendments on June 30, the legislation failed to pass the Senate on a 17-12 vote Aug. 5, but passed 22-11 on Aug. 16. Two days later, the Assembly concurred with the Senate amendments 44-34. The bill was sent Aug. 27 to the governor, who sent it back to the Assembly Sept. 21 with an explanation of his refusal to sign it into law.

Calaveras Enterprise story by John Hall. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com