PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Following months of debate, the Paw Paw Public Schools Board of Education voted Wednesday to keep the district’s Redskins mascot.

It was a tight 4-3 vote to stay with the name. Under the motion that was approved, the matter cannot be revisited unless government funding is withheld.

Though the board had asked people to refrain from cheering, supporters starting doing so after the meeting was adjourned.

There had been heated debates at public meetings about the mascot since the beginning of the school year. Those who wanted to keep it say it’s tradition and not malicious. Those who wanted to see it changed say it’s a racial slur.

Tensions remained high during more than an hour and a half of public comment at Wednesday’s meeting, with at least two opponents of the name escorted out. The board threatened to recess the meeting if attendees didn’t remain civil.

A man who supported the mascot said that people needed to “mind their own business” and that opponents had been bullying those who like the name.

Generally, it seemed that people who live in Paw Paw don’t have a problem with the name, while those who opposed it are from elsewhere.

“To those who have called the Paw Paw community — including myself — racists, bigots, white supremacists for far too long. This idea that we have institutional racism within Paw Paw Public Schools is absolutely ridiculous,” board Vice President Aaron Mitchell said.

How the board voted:

  • Trustee Jody Williford: Yes
  • Trustee Brent McNitt: Yes
  • Trustee Amy Craddock: Yes
  • President Karen Ayres: No
  • Secretary Patrick Lynch: No
  • Trustee Renee Richardson: No
  • Vice President Aaron Mitchell: Yes

There was a much larger police presence at Wednesday’s meeting than there was at previous public forums, with officers from the Van Buren Sheriff’s Department, Michigan State Police and tribal police on hand.

The Saranac school district voted in 2015 to keep its Redskins mascot. In December 2016, the Belding school board voted to drop the Redskins name. Before that decision, part of the argument to keep the mascot in Paw Paw was that no other districts had changed it.

Wednesday, the Belding High School principal said a list of replacement options will be narrowed from 10 to between three and five by the end of the week. The district hopes to have a new mascot picked by March.