Michigan Department of Civil Rights files complaint with OCR to end use of American Indian names and symbols as mascots
According to The Voice, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) seeking an order prohibiting the use of Indian nicknames, mascots, chants, and imagery. MDCR’s complaint alleges that new research shows a negative impact on student learning, creating an unequal environment in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The complaint states: “A growing and unrebutted body of evidence now establishes that the use of American Indian imagery reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American Indian ancestry.” It also claims, “Continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery creates a hostile environment and denies equal rights to all current and future American Indian students and must therefore cease.”
MDCR’s complaint lists 35 high schools that currently use American Indian mascots, names, terms, graphics, and any other imagery. MDCR officials contend that research proves that “actual harm” comes to American Indian students from the references in the form of “decreased achievement, self-esteem and self-identity” and increases the stereotyping of all minority groups.
MDCR is asking OCR to ban the use of the references in any primary or secondary institution listed in the complaint or any that receives federal funds. The complaint also urges OCR to conclude that the term “‘Redskins’ has historically been used as a racial slur, and for this reason carries particularly negative connotations that accentuate the negative impact of associated stereotypes.”
Source: The Voice, 2/11/13, By Jameson Cook; Jeff Payne, Contributor
[Editor's Note: According to MDCR's press release announcing the filing of the complaint: MDCR is asking OCR "to issue an order prohibiting the continued use American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, slogans, chants and/or imagery (hereafter referred to as 'imagery')." The press release also notes MDCR's complaint addresses only primary and secondary schools, so colleges and universities would not be impacted by any action OCR might take in response.
In August 2010, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press article in the Superior Telegram, which reported that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WDPI) had ordered the Osseo-Fairchild School District to drop its Chieftains nickname and logo after a determination that it was race-based and promoted discrimination and harassment. Under then-recently enacted legislation, WDPI had the authority to order schools to drop their race-based nicknames and logos if they were deemed discriminatory. Under the law, districts that refused to drop names after being ordered to do so could face $1,000 per-day fines.]