Michigan public schools that may be required to change mascots due to a state department complaint against Native American imagery would not have to pay for any costs incurred in the change under legislation unveiled today by Rep. Dan Lauwers.
House Bill 4735, sponsored by Lauwers, helps create a $3 million fund to cover schools’ expenses for changing mascots, should the federal complaint be successful. The $3 million would come from the budget of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, which filed the complaint independently, without prompting from any Native American group or individual.
“If a state-funded department is going to arbitrarily issue a complaint that could hurt our public schools, then it’s only fair they pick up the tab for any potential costs,” said Lauwers, R-Brockway Township. “Every school dollar possible should be going into the classroom to teach our children, not be spent on the new paint and letterhead needed to change mascots.”
A total of 35 Michigan schools were listed in the complaint, including the Capac High School Chiefs and Port Huron High School Big Reds. Community leaders, area Native American groups and parents were not asked whether a change was necessary.
“Hopefully nothing will come from the state’s misguided complaint, but a plan must be in place if the feds do require schools to change mascots,” Lauwers said. “The complaint unfortunately is a solution in search of a problem. Many American Indians say they are honored by a school that chooses to show respect for their tribe’s heritage.”
The state Department of Civil Rights in February filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education, requesting the removal of all native American mascots and imagery, including logos and slogans, from Michigan public schools.
The Lauwers legislation is part a two-bill package, which also includes House Bill 4734.