Mascot bill signed into law; schools can keep Native American names

SALEM — A bill allowing school districts to enter into agreements with Oregon’s federally recognized Native American tribes for the use of mascots was signed into law Thursday by Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio.

A similar bill sponsored by Sprenger passed both legislative chambers during the regular 2013 session, but was vetoed by Kitzhaber.

“Since the end of the last regular session, I’ve worked with various stakeholders to come to a compromise that can be acceptable to everyone involved,” Sprenger said in a statement released by her office. “It was important to balance the interests of our tribes, school districts and other interested parties to ensure the best possible outcome.”

The bill, SB 1509, was prompted by a 2012 decision by the state Board of Education that all Oregon public schools must eliminate such team names and mascots by June 2017 or lose their state funding support.

The Warriors is the nickname for teams from Philomath High School and Lebanon High School, which is located in Sprenger’s district and where her son is enrolled. Some Native American imagery also is associated with the school.

“This bill was important to some of my constituents, so I’m glad that we were able to resolve this issue in such bipartisan fashion,” Sprenger said.

Sprenger represents House District 17. Her district includes Lebanon, Sublimity, Gates, Stayton, Sweet Home, Mill City, Lyons, Detroit, Waterloo, Idanha and Scio. She was recently named House Republican whip.

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