State supt. wants to penalize use of Redskins mascot

Paw Paw Redskins
A supporter of the Redskins mascot in Paw Paw holds up a sign during a school board meeting on Feb. 8, 2017.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If Michigan’s top educator gets his way, the state may punish school districts with mascots that are deemed offensive.

State Superintendent Brian Whiston wants the authority to fine the schools that don’t change their Native American mascots, like the Redskins.

He is waiting to hear back from the state Attorney General’s Office to see if he can make a 5 to 10 percent cut to a district’s state aid payment if they refuse to change.

“What we would do is warn a district that if they don’t make a change within 60 days that we would withhold some portion of their school aid funds,” Whiston explained to 24 Hour News 8 in a phone interview Wednesday.

He expects an answer from the AG’s Office in the next 30 days, but added his department is preparing language to put before the Michigan legislature to get approval for the fines.

Paw Paw Public Schools recently voted to keep their Redskins mascot and logos after months of intense debate. People pushing to keep the name argued it was a source of pride for the community and not meant to be disrespectful.

Saranac Community Schools also had that debate several years ago. Their school board voted in 2015 to keep the Redskins name.

Belding Area Schools, however, has dropped the Redskins name and picked a new mascot.

Whiston’s office is working with 12 tribes around Michigan to figure out which district mascots are offensive.

“I understand and respect people’s varying opinions, but I think when people stand up and clearly say it’s offensive to them, I don’t know how I can sit there and say it’s not offensive to them,” Whiston said.