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Doug's Diggings: Hudson "Raiders" nickname appears to be safe

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Last week the Star-Observer printed a letter from Larry Dittloff, a 1966 Hudson high School grad who now lives in Olympia, Wash. His concern was that Hudson may have to change the current nickname of "Raiders" because it shows up on a list of "inappropriate" nicknames for schools.

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I know Larry -- I am also a 1966 HHS grad and Larry is a reasonable person who raised a legitimate concern.

Since the letter was printed, I researched the issue more extensively and can tell our readers that it is unlikely that Hudson will have to change its Raider nickname or logo.

One thing that should be clarified, however, is that the editor's note said the "list of 'politically incorrect' nicknames is coming from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. The nickname 'Raiders' is on the list."

The list actually comes from the Indian Mascot & Logo Taskforce. The DPI is closely involved in the process, but did not compile the list. Paul Sherman, head of the DPI Pupil non-discrimination program, provided some background for the situation.

Gov. James Doyle signed Wisconsin Act 250 in May of this year. The law created a law relating to the use of race/based nicknames, logos, mascots, and team names. It gives the DPI the authority to bar schools from using race-based nicknames or logos.

The DPI, however, does not get involved unless there is a complaint.

"So far we have had three complaints," Sherman said.

The first case under the new law involved the Osseo-Fairchild Chieftains and the DPI ruled that the school stop using the "Chieftain" name. The second case came against Kewaunee (Indians), but the school has said that it will develop a new nickname on its own -- before the DPI ruled.

The third case came involving a complaint against the Mukwonago (Indians) and that is currently being reviewed by the DPI.

Sherman said the part of the law that can assist a school district involves the burden of proof.

"The burden of proof falls on the complainant - the school district does not have to prove whether a logo is/or is not race- or Native American-based," Sherman said.

That could be an important factor for a school like Hudson. With the logo being a medieval knight on a horse, it would be difficult for a complainant to prove that the nickname and logo are race-based.

"Now if the Raider nickname was used in conjunction with a Native American, then Hudson might have a problem," Sherman said.

His general insinuation is that Hudson should be on pretty solid ground. Another note, anyone filing a complaint against a school must reside in the school district.

As far as penalties are concerned, a school district ordered to change has 12 months to make the change. That, however, can be extended for various reasons including financial.

"For example, football uniforms with a new logo could cost $15,000," Sherman said. "It is possible that the uniforms were scheduled for replacement in two years."

Extensions may be requested for between one and 96 months.

"If the district refused to comply with the original, or extended deadline, section 118.134 (5) of the statutes provides for forfeitures of between $100 and $1,000 per day," Sherman said.

So that pretty well sums up the state involvement in the nickname debates that go on in various communities around the state. Another interesting website related to the issue is www.indianmascots.com.

It is operated by the Wisconsin Indian Education Association and it is the organization that compiled the list of "politically incorrect" nicknames produced by the organization's Indian Mascot and Logo Taskforce.

This organization has worked for many years to stop the use of "Indian" mascots and logos in Wisconsin schools.

The site includes a list of Wisconsin schools that have made changes to logos on a volunteer basis. Some of the school kept the same nickname, but changed the logo that goes with it. For instance, the Amery Warriors logo now has a medieval look; the Arcadia Raiders now has wolves; the Viroqua Blackhawks now has a bird -- the list includes 30 schools that have changed something in the past 10-or-so years. I'm assuming that all of these had some sort of Indian logo at one time.

That's not to say, of course, that someone could not still file a complaint and seek a DPI ruling.

Another list on the site has the schools that have not made voluntary changes --- they are on the organization's hit list. That list has 35 schools. Among them are: Menomonie Indians, Baldwin-Woodville Blackhawks, Osceola Chieftains - to name a few.

One that caught my eye, of course, was the Elmwood Raiders. The name is the same as Hudson's, but the logo has a letter "E" with an arrow going through it. Hudson does not show up on the Wisconsin Indian Education Association list.

My buddy Larry Dittloff credits Rich Salini, in about 1961, as having designed the modern-day Raider logo of a mounted knight. In looking at some of the old yearbooks, I saw a knight-type logo in 1959. Other than that, I don't know much history of the Raider logo. As far as I can tell, the Hudson Raiders never involved any logos that included Native Americans.

For the time being, anyway, it appears that Hudson "Raiders" nickname and logo are safe from both the scrutiny of the Wisconsin Indian Education Association and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

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