(April 13) – The House passed a bill this morning to end Colorado public schools’ use of mascots that are insulting to American Indians.

HB15-1165, sponsored by Reps. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, would create a subcommittee in the Colorado Commission of Indian Affairs to review the use of American Indian mascots by public schools in Colorado. School districts are encouraged to approach tribal leadership to seek their endorsement of an Indian-related mascot or team name.

With the blessing of the commission or a tribe, no further action is required. But if a school’s mascot is deemed offensive, the school has two years to discontinue use of that mascot or face heavy fines. The bill allows schools to accept gifts, grants and donations to help with costs associated with changing mascots.

“I have no doubt that the good people of Lamar, home of the Savages, are proud of their high school and intend no disrespect,” Rep. Salazar said. “But to find out whether a team name embraces an offensive stereotype, the best judges are the people who might be offended. This bill gives everyone a voice.”

The bill promotes a better approach, he told the House this morning — “Go to the people you want to honor and say, ‘How can I best honor you?’”

“We should not be using public dollars to degrade any person or any group,” Rep. Melton said. “We want to open a dialogue that will promote mutual understanding and mutual respect.”

After a recorded vote, the bill will go to the Senate.

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