A Michigan school has voted to get rid of its “Redskins” mascot and nickname, citing division in the community.
The Paw Paw Public Schools Board of Education, located in Paw Paw, Michigan, voted 6-1 on Monday to retire the nickname of “Paw Paw Redskins” at the end of the school year, according to MLive. Superintendent Rick Reo asked for the change at the latest board meeting on Monday, pointing to tension in the school and surrounding community as a reason.
“It’s not that the term has taken on any different meaning for me — that has not changed at all,” Reo said in a letter published in recent Paw Paw Public Schools newsletter. “But I have witnessed the division this issue has caused among the people of our school district and community. More importantly, this has had a negative impact on some, but not all, of our students.”
Reo said that there have been “multiple instances” where “awful things” were said to student in relation to the school’s nickname and mascot.
MLive reported that board member Thomas Baney was the only person to vote against replacing the mascot.
The board had previously considered changing the mascot and nickname in 2017, according to Reo’s statement in the newsletter, but decided against it. Reo joined school leadership in 2018.
Reo said that although he does not believe the Redskin nickname is “inherently bad” and that it was originally instituted out of “respect and with the intent to honor and celebrate the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans,” he does not want the mascot to affect students.
“I am convinced the people of Paw Paw want us to be a unified school and community,” he wrote. “…We will not accept a position that leaves kids vulnerable to feeling or being excluded, alienated or targeted for something entirely beyond their control.”
Read Reo’s full letter, which was published before the school board meeting, here.
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Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]
Photo “Paw Paw High School Cheerleaders” by Paw Paw High School.