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Governor Walker signs new mascot naming rule into law

MADISON, Wis. (WSAU-Wheeler News) -- Governor Scott Walker signed a bill Thursday which makes it a lot harder to force public schools to drop their Indian team names.

The Republican Walker had until the end of the day to act on the measure, or else it would have passed without his signature. The governor's intentions were first disclosed in a letter he wrote to tribal leaders, saying he would sign the bill in spite of the tribes' objections. The governor confirmed his action in a statement Thursday afternoon. Walker again called it a free speech issue -- and instead of legislating the schools' First Amendment rights, he said he would assist in efforts to educate people on how Indian monikers can be offensive.

Earlier this week, Walker said schools should voluntarily find ways not to offend their local Indian tribes. The American Civil Liberties Union said Walker does not understand that the First Amendment is designed to prevent government censorship -- not to let government offend and discriminate against citizens.

Under the bill, those offended by Indian team names would have to prove they were hurt -- and one person could no longer complain, since petitions would need to have signatures representing at least 10-percent of the targeted school's enrollment. Also, the administration would decide complaints instead of the state's education agency.