Camden Frontier schools’ Redskins mascot could cost the school five to 10 percent of its state aid. Michigan State Superintendent Brian Whiston is investigating whether or not he can fine schools with Native American mascots.
Whiston is currently waiting to hear from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on whether he has the authority to do so. If the legal opinion comes back as an affirmative, Whiston plans to penalize schools for keeping Native American mascots, which some argue are offensive and degrading.
“I still don’t have the authority to force the change,” Whiston told MLive.com. “But they would know they would face a financial fine for not changing.”
Such fines would not be insignificant for Camden Frontiers schools, said Camden Frontier Schools Superintendent Scott Riley. Such a cut could slice up to $350,000 from Camden Frontier schools’ budget.
“Obviously, any time you take away funding it will have a drastic effect on our bottom line,” Riley said.
Whiston plans to first target schools where complaints about mascot have been made. Such schools would receive a written warning that they have 60 days to get rid of the mascots before they are fined.
Whiston also said he wouldn’t target schools where complaints haven’t been filed. This could potentially save Camden Frontier from facing the fine. Riley said that Camden Frontier Schools has not heard many complaints regarding the mascot, and that a local Native American tribe sent the school a letter which supported the Redskins mascot.
Riley said that the school would discuss keeping its mascot if such a fine was passed, but said that such a decision would ultimately be left to the board.
Advocates have been trying to end the use of Native American mascots for years.
In 2003, the Michigan State Board of Education issued a resolution urging schools to eliminate Native American mascots for their “offensive and…detrimental” effects.
In 2013, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights sought to end the use of the Redskins mascot in K-12 schools. The U.S. Department of Education dismissed the complaint, however, on the grounds of insufficient evidence of discrimination or offense associated with the mascots.
If the Attorney General denies Whiston the authority to penalize schools, the issue could go to the Michigan Legislature.