Equity & Diversity

Mascot Imagery Civil Rights Target

By Bryan Toporek — February 19, 2013 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Michigan civil rights department has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights asking for a ban on the use of American Indian mascots and imagery in K-12 schools that receive federal funds. The state agency highlights 35 Michigan schools with such mascots or imagery as the basis of the complaint.

In its supporting argument, the department cites research showing 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 that the use of such imagery “denies equal learning opportunities for some students,” in violation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

The Michigan department argues that the harm done to American Indian students should be sufficient for the federal civil rights office to ban their usage in K-12 schools that receive federal funds, except in extremely limited circumstances. If a school can use an American Indian image “in a way that is respectful” and “not reinforce any singular limiting image of Indian peoples,” the department suggests it could be allowed, “but only within guidelines provided by” the civil rights office.

As of press time, the federal civil rights office had not responded to a request for a comment on the filing.

In 1995, the federal civil rights office decided that an American Indian mascot at a high school in Quincy, Mass., did not constitute a violation of a federal civil rights law. But the ruling didn’t bar the possibility of finding other schools’ mascots in violation of civil rights law, according to Michael Burns, the then-deputy regional director of the OCR’s Boston office.

In 2001, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights urged non-Indian schools to end the use of such American Indian imagery.

A few states have already acted. In 2010, Wisconsin enacted a law that allows residents of a school district to challenge mascot names that allegedly promote a negative racial stereotype. This past May, the Oregon board of education voted to ban K-12 public schools from using American Indian mascots or imagery, giving any school affected by the policy five years to make the change.

A version of this article appeared in the February 20, 2013 edition of Education Week as Mascot Imagery Civil Rights Target

Events

School Climate & Safety K-12 Essentials Forum Strengthen Students’ Connections to School
Join this free event to learn how schools are creating the space for students to form strong bonds with each other and trusted adults.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
Future-Proofing Your School's Tech Ecosystem: Strategies for Asset Tracking, Sustainability, and Budget Optimization
Gain actionable insights into effective asset management, budget optimization, and sustainable IT practices.
Content provided by Follett Learning
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Opinion 70 Years of Abandonment: The Failed Promise of 'Brown v. Board'
If the nation is going to refuse integration, Black people must demand we revisit the separate but equal doctrine, writes Bettina L. Love.
4 min read
A Black student is isolated from their classmates by an aisle in the classroom.
Xia Gordon for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion 'Brown v. Board of Education' at 70: A Dream Dissolved
This anniversary should remind us that progress is not inevitable. We stand now at a critical juncture.
R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy
4 min read
A young Black woman's image dissolves in the smoke.
iStock/Getty Images
Equity & Diversity Opinion Equity? Equality? How Educators Can Tell the Difference
Educators offer advice and examples for giving students what they need, rather than simply treating everyone the same.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Judge Says State Can't Block Teachers From Discussing Critical Race Theory
The rule stops short of more broadly blocking Arkansas from enforcing its ban on certain topics.
2 min read
Students make their way into Little Rock Central High School on Aug. 24, 2020, for the first day of classes in the Little Rock School District. A federal judge ruled, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, that Arkansas cannot prevent two high school teachers from discussing critical race theory in the classroom, but stopped short of more broadly blocking the state from enforcing its ban on “indoctrination” in public schools. The prohibition is being challenged by two teachers and two students at Little Rock Central High School, site of the 1957 desegregation crisis.
Students make their way into Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., on Aug. 24, 2020, for the first day of classes.
Tommy Metthe/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette via AP