On party-line vote, Colorado House committee OKs Indian mascot bill

· Mar. 24, 2015, 1:24 pm
Photo: Indian painting dunking basketballRachel Estabrook/CPR News
A painting on the wall of the gym at La Veta High School, which was painted by a local artist, according to school board member Eleanor Foley.

The 6-5 party-line vote saw Republicans in opposition. The vote came after a debate that was tense and uncomfortable at times.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, would create a legislative sub-committee comprised of members from American Indian tribes who would review the mascots.

More: Bill to assess Indian-themed school mascots to hit Colorado Legislature

“The purpose of the bill is to empower the American Indian community and let them decide what is and what is not offensive," Salazar said. "The American Indian community will be able to decide how best they want to be honored.”  

Under the measure, schools using mascots that are denied approval by the panel would have two years to comply or face a $25,000 monthly fine.

John Sampson, who sits on the Strasburg, Colorado school board, opposes the bill because he believes concerns with mascots can be handled on a local level without the need for a legislative remedy. His district’s crest shows an American Indian. 

“I will extend the invitation from our school board and our community for you to come out and visit with us. We would prefer to deal with this on a local basis,” Sampson said.

The bill also would create a $200,000 fund to help schools cover the cost of replacing or updating a mascot including new gym floors, signs and uniforms. More than a dozen schools in Colorado use American Indian-themed mascots.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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