PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — The superintendent of Paw Paw Public Schools has suggested the district move away from its controversial Redskins mascot.
In the district newsletter, Superintendent Rick Reo said he would make a proposal to the school board next week to retire the mascot at the end of the school year.
“Our nickname is preventing us from realizing our true potential as a school that welcomes, celebrates, supports and challenges all students,” Reo wrote in part.
This isn’t the first time the fate of the mascot has been in question. After passionate debate on both sides, the school board voted in February 2017 to keep the mascot and also stated the matter could not be revisited unless government funding was at stake. Opponents continued to make their disapproval known, including by putting up a billboard in 2018 calling the mascot “very offensive.”
Reo was not the superintendent in 2017 and in fact did not even work the for the district at the time.
In the newsletter, Reo said he didn’t think use of the term was meant to be degrading, but that since coming to the district he has realized it is dividing the community and negatively affecting some students.
“…If we have students walking our halls who are uncomfortable with our Redskin nickname, who cannot share in the school pride and spirit we want all students to have, who are divided from classmates because of the very thing that’s supposed to bring students together, then I think we need to question whether holding onto the nickname is the right thing to do,” he wrote.
He added that the mascot had led to some name-calling toward students at sporting events that he said could be avoided.
His proposal will go before the board at its 7 p.m. Monday meeting at the Cedar Street Campus media center.
According to the Michigan Coalition Against Racism in Sports & Media — the group that paid for the billboard — 26 Michigan schools have dropped the Redskins mascot since 2000, including Belding (now the Black Knights) and Ottawa Hills (Bengals).
When Belding made the switch, it got a grant of more than $334,000 from the Native American Heritage Fund to help cover transition costs like new jerseys, equipment and facility signage.
The coalition says five schools in the state still have the mascot. Two are in West Michigan: Paw Paw and Saranac, which decided to keep the name in 2015.