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Ban sought on American Indian mascots in schools

AP Wire • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:11 PM

Supporters say the mascots are a way to celebrate American Indian history and traditions and preserve the group's culture. But according to the complaint, new evidence suggests the use of the mascots "reinforces stereotypes," negatively impacting American Indian students' self-esteem, student learning and achievement.

The complaint cites 35 Michigan school districts "responsible for the alleged discrimination." However, a federal ruling for the Michigan department could have broader reach, spurring a nationwide ban on the use of such mascots and imagery in school districts that receive federal funds.

Daniel Levy, the director of law and policy for MDCR, wrote in the complaint that recent studies now provide a "legal basis" to prohibit the use of American Indian imagery and mascots by proving the mascots cause "actual harm" to American Indian students.

Previously, the only way to make a legal case against the use of the mascots was to prove harassment, Director of Public Affairs for MDCR Leslee Fritz said. The department either had to show bad intention on the part of the school or that the use of the mascot is "universally offensive" — "a difficult thing to do," she said.

Last year, the Oregon Board of Education banned the use of American Indian mascots in the state, citing the research as "key" in their decision.

Mark Dombroksi, superintendent for the Cheboygan Area School District, said he believes the district has used the "chiefs" mascot since the schools opened in the late 1890s. He said the community is heavily populated by American Indians and called the mascot a "sense of pride to the local community."

U.S. Department of Education spokesman Jim Bradshaw said the Office of Civil Rights has received the complaint and referred it to the Cleveland office, which handles matters involving Michigan. He said the office has not yet reviewed the document.

Fritz said the department chose to file the complaint at the federal level "to help every student at one time."

Michigan districts with American Indian mascots:

Athens Area Schools

Bay City Public Schools

Belding Area Schools

Birmingham Brother Rice

Woodhaven Brownstown School District

Camden-Frontier School District

Capac Community Schools

Cheboygan Area School District

Chesaning Union Schools

Chippewa Valley Schools

Clinton Community Schools

Dowagiac Union Schools

Gladstone Area Public Schools

Grass Lake Community Schools

Hartford Public Schools

North Huron School District

JW Sexton High School, Lansing School District

Marquette Area Public Schools

Morley Stanwood Community Schools

Huron School District

Tahquamenon Area Schools

Paw Paw Public School District

Plymouth-Canton Community Schools

Port Huron Area School District

Chippewa Hills School District

Sandusky Community Schools

Saranac Community Schools

Saugatuck Public Schools

Tawas Area Schools

Tecumseh Public Schools

Tekonsha Community Schools

Utica Community Schools

Walled Lake Consolidated School District

White Cloud School District

White Pigeon Community Schools

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