Radio Made in Michigan
4:40 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Sparks Fly At Budget Hearing On Mascot Complaint

Republican lawmakers at the state Capitol have some harsh words for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Credit WKAR File Photo

The department has filed a formal complaint that names 35 school districts that have American Indian mascots.

More from The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta.

The complaint was filed last week with the U-S Department of Education and it could cost school districts federal education funds. Republican lawmakers like Representative Anthony Forlini say the complaint is an abuse of the department’s authority.

“I think to file against our own school districts, you’re with our state, with the federal government, just seems nuts,”  he says.

Leslee Fritz is with the civil rights department. She says the department filed the complaint because research shows the nicknames and mascots hurt American Indian student performance.

"And so it is no longer a question, a subjective question, about what is offensive, but what is harmful,”  she says.

That exchange was from a hearing about the department’s budget. Republicans want the department to withdraw the complaint.