By Jonathan Lowe, TV5 Anchor, Reporter - bio | email
SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -
Who will pay for mascot changes at local schools?
With the push to get rid of all American Indian mascots, state lawmakers are introducing new bills that would make the transition happen without leaving affected schools high and dry.
The proposal would allow districts to get money back for changing logos.
Thirty-five Michigan schools use Native American images for their school mascot and names.
A local state representative says those schools need helping funding students education and districts don't need to be spending money on paint, new uniforms, and signage.
Morgan King and Connor Vincke are students at Chesaning High School where for decades, an Indian chief was the school's logo.
"I think it's ridiculous, it's just a school mascot that we've had for so long and so many people are actually happy that we've had it for so long," King said. "We had to change all of our stuff. We weren't allowed to wear it, so it costs money too, and now it's going to cost more money if we have to change."
At least one state representative predicts the complaint filed by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights will lead to a lot of spent money that could be better utilized inside of classrooms.
The complaint, filed with the Department of Education, is asking the feds to issue an order prohibiting the continued use of American Indian mascots and slogans in schools.
Republican Rep. Ben Glardon, of Owosso, said it's the state's Department of Civil rights that should be on the hook for what it will costs schools to change out their entire image.
"This bill, in essence would freeze three million of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights budget," Glardon said.
Justin Scholtz graduated from Chesaning High School in 2001 and he supports Glardon's bill.
"They're the ones bringing it up and if they want to change, they should pay for it if they want to change it," Scholtz said.
But Leslee Fritz with the Department of Civil Rights said it's Native American children who end up paying the most.
"We have, over the course of a number of years, received a variety of complaints from places around the state, from both students and parents of students," Fritz said. "The violence, the threats, the fear and intimidation that has resulted, and that's part of the reason we felt we needed to act."
Glardon doesn't think the civil right complaint is the answer. In fact, he thinks it's a bit premature.
"There's an awful lot of Native American pride that, I think, they should have input, the locals schools and communities and people should have input in this discussion," Glardon said.
It's that very segment of society civil rights advocates say they are trying to protect.
Officials with the Department of Civil Rights say there's really no reason to be concerned about the cost to school's having to change their mascots or names. They say just look to Oregon, which is the only other state that has a ban on using Native American mascots and names in schools.
The U.S. Department of Education gave Oregon five years to make the switch.
Copyright 2013 WNEM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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