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Attorney General Says 'No' To Keeping Money From Schools With Native American Mascots

Bill Schuette
State of Michigan

The use of Native American logos and images for school mascots is once again in the spotlight. 

On Thursday, the Michigan Attorney General weighed in on whether the State Superintendent can withhold money from schools that refuse to change their mascots. 

In the opinion, Schuette says there’s no rule or portion of the school code that lets the Superintendent keep money from schools as a penalty for their mascot.  

Last February, the State Superintendent asked Schuette to weigh in on the issue. 

Bill DeSessa is with the Michigan Department of Education.  He said the Superintendent considered the penalty after multiple Michigan tribes raised concerns. 

“The State Superintendent still encourages school districts that have Native American mascots and logos to use resources available in Michigan’s Native American Heritage Fund to defray the costs of changing their school mascot,” he said. 

As part of a new agreement with the state, schools that want to change their mascots can apply for money from the Native American Heritage Fund.  That can be used to defray costs of swapping mascots like new uniforms, signage, and letterhead. 

Republican Representative Tim Kelly asked for the opinion.  He says he’s happy with the result. 

It’s a First Amendment item,” Kelly said.  “So, hopefully this will kind of end this debate.”

Native American groups have spoken out against mascots like the Redskins and the Chippewas.  They say the mascots are offensive and make Native American students uncomfortable. 

Some schools in Michigan have raised the issue of their school mascots on their own.  Belding’s school board recently decided to get rid of its mascot – The Redskins.  Paw-Paw’s school board decided to keep the same mascot.

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—Cheyna Roth is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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