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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

U.S. Department of Education investigates Paw Paw Public Schools District

Redskins Mascot for Paw Paw Public Schools Photo
Paw Paw Public Schools

It was in 2017 that the Paw Paw Board of Education voted to keep the Redskins name and an image of a Native American as the schools mascot following  several months of contention dividing many in the small community. Mark Fancher from the ACLU of Michigan says that a lot of the resistance to it was happening in public meetings held on school grounds.

“We were certainly disturbed and concerned by the reaction of the community and the school district to those who were challenging the mascot.”

After several unsuccessful attempts to reach the school administration, Fancher and his team filed a Freedom of Information Act Request.

“And we got back a very large number of records related to incidents that had occurred in the school district and that were extremely disturbing in which concerned people of a number of different racial groups and ethnicities.”

According to Fancher these reports detail countless of incidents that prove the school environment is racially hostile. 

“In one case there was a student who had a science project and another student placed the swastika on it and put a model of a Hitler figurine in the basket of a small hot air balloon. When she complained to the teacher about it, the teacher dismissed the complaint basically and described the swastika as artistic.”

But whether or not the environment at the school is racially hostile will be up to the U.S. Department of Education Officer for Civil Rights. If the OCR determines the school district’s practices violate Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, the district could lose federal funding. School officials at Paw Paw Public Schools say they are cooperating with the investigation.

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.