Until recently the public high school in Paw Paw, Michigan still used the racial slur “Redskin” and offensive imagery of a Native American as a mascot for its athletic program.  Advocacy by Native Americans in the area to change the mascot was beaten back with excessive hostility, aggression, and racial animus. 

After receiving multiple complaints about this controversy and other signs of racial discrimination and harassment in the Paw Paw Public Schools, the ACLU of Michigan investigated and uncovered a pattern of extremely disturbing incidents, including the display of swastika, hostile use of the N word and other racial slurs, and students being told to “go back to Mexico.”  When we approached the school district with an offer to collaborate in attempting to improve the environment, we were ignored. 

In January 2019 we formally filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, charging that the school district’s deliberate indifference to a racially hostile educational environment violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  In December 2019 the Department of Education announced that it would investigate the school district’s treatment of Native Americans.  In March 2020 the school district finally acknowledged the harm caused by its offensive Native American branding and discontinued its use. 

(ACLU Attorney Mark P. Fancher.) 


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