Media Contact

Ann Mullen, (313) 400-8562,

January 21, 2019

The ACLU of Michigan, in a complaint filed today with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), asks that the Paw Paw Public School District be investigated for maintaining a racially hostile educational environment.

“All children should be able to attend school without having to endure racial discrimination and harassment,” said Mark P. Fancher, the ACLU of Michigan’s Racial Justice Project’s staff attorney and the drafter of the complaint. “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a day when children of all races, colors and creeds will be able to join hands as sisters and brothers. We honor Dr. King on this day by urging the Department of Education and the Paw Paw school district to pursue racial reform.”

The complaint was filed after the ACLU and other non-profit organizations offered to help the district address the pervasive bigotry that is evidenced in many written complaints maintained by the school system. But the district ignored the offer. 

The ACLU detailed several examples of the hostile environment based on records provided in response to a Freedom of Information Act request for documentation of all racial incidents in the district from 2015 through 2017, including:

  • One document alleges that students placed a swastika and a small Hitler figurine in the basket of another student’s model hot air balloon science project. In response to a complaint the teacher allegedly described the swastika as “artistic.”
  • One report states: “Tuesday coming back from lunch, [name deleted] pushed another student and called him the N word.”
  • Another report states: “…[name deleted] came to me yesterday and wanted to talk to me about how he was feeling after the election. Yesterday afternoon he told me he had been hearing racist remarks from other students such as “Trump’s in the house,” “Go back to Mexico,” “Go back to your country now and pick blueberries.”
  • Still another report states: “Use of a racial slur, directed at a classmate. Called him a ‘f---ing n***er.’”
  • A report alleges that “[name deleted] called another student a ‘dirty Mexican.’”

Also, in response to an ongoing controversy over the use of a racial slur “Redskins,” as the high school team mascot, the Paw Paw Public Schools Board of Education voted last year to reinstitute the mascot. At that same very heated meeting the Board agreed to not address the matter again “..until a single tax dollar is withheld.”  OCR may withhold federal funding as a penalty, but the ACLU is requesting a “voluntary resolution agreement” that will address and eliminate the racially hostile environment.