Redskins mascot would be banned from Michigan schools under Senate bill

Eliminating Redskins mascot

LANSING, MICH. - A state lawmaker wants to eliminate “Redskins’’ as a mascot for public schools and school sports teams; the latest move in a campaign to dismantle what has been called an insensitive reference to American Indians.

The bill introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, says schools shall not use the term “Redskins’’ for a mascot, name or nickname for the school, athletic team, student group or club.

Five Michigan school districts currently use the Redskins name, including Paw Paw and Saranac.

The ban would take effect Sept. 1, 2018.  It also says that no later than Jan. 1, 2019, a public school using the term Redskins would have to select and begin using a new mascot or team name or nickname.

Schools would have to refrain from buying uniforms, yearbooks, newspapers and programs bearing the term Redskins and keep the term from school websites.

The bill has no co-sponsors and has been referred to the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

The Redskins mascot has been a lightning rod at various districts across the state, most recently at Paw Paw Public Schools in Van Buren County. The Board of Education in February voted to keep the district’s Redskins mascot. Saranac Public Schools in Ionia County did the same in 2015.

In Belding, school board members in December voted to abandon the Redskins name. Its new moniker is the Belding Black Knights.

The bill does not address other school nicknames that have raised eyebrows over the years, including the Braves, Chiefs, Indians and Warriors.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights in 2013 filed a federal complaint seeking to prohibit continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, slogans, chants and/or imagery. It said use of American Indian imagery “reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American Indian ancestry’’ and creates a “hostile environment.’’

The complaint was later dismissed.

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