Clinton School Board votes to keep Redskin mascot
By JIM LINCOLN
The Clinton School Board voted unanimously on Thursday, April 29, to support the current Redskin name and image as the school district’s official mascot.
The special meeting was scheduled to allow public comment on the issue, which has attracted strong passions from both sides. The board said it has acted on behalf of the majority of its constituents who support the current mascot.
The meeting attracted several hundred to Clinton High School, where local law enforcement was present and reinforced by officers from the Michigan State Police and Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department.
Addressing the board at the start of the meeting was Elspeth and Kylista Geiger, sisters and CHS graduates, who have attended Clinton school board meetings for the past 18 months to protest the Redskin mascot.
Elspeth told the board that the mascot creates a “hostile environment” and is “offensive” and “culturally numbing” for Native Americans. She noted a number of professional organizations that have codes of ethics about culturally inappropriate conduct. She also gave a list of organizations which oppose the use of Native Americans as mascots. Those include: Michigan Education Association, Michigan State Board of Education, American Pychiatric Association, and various Native American tribal groups.
Geiger’s presentation was followed by comments from Daniel Krichbaum, interim director of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, who said he was not there to tell the board what to decide, but recommended addressing the issue “head-on” by gathering students, faculty and community leaders along with experts to help “problem solve.” He said use of such logos can be “culturally insensitive.”
Clinton Supt. David Pray took issue with Krichbaum’s comments since complaints have been filed with the Civil Rights Commission about Clinton’s mascot. “I have problems with what you said. You should not be taking sides on this issue, your department is supposed to be objective. It’s clear the department has chosen to become an advocate, which is inappropriate,” Pray said.
Following Pray’s response to Krichbaum, trustee Shirley Harris, noting a Supreme Court decision allowing the use of Native American mascots, made the motion to continue using the Redskin name. Board members presented comments and voted unanimously to support the motion.
Following the vote, the board opened the floor for comments from the public, at which time a large number of people began leaving the bleachers.
Jeanette Henagan, president of the Lenawee County chapter of the NAACP was among the first to speak. She began by looking around at people leaving and said, “This is total disrespect, this was planned. I want everyone to know that when you enter Lenawee County, you show people of the United States what is going on. This has not been respectful because it was planned and you took the vote before hearing the public comment. We are not done, we will be back,” Henagan said.
Clinton resident Joyce Cook said the Redskin name and background was not racist and originated in Europe. “We need to teach kids that the use of Redskins is not derogatory,” she said.
A CHS class of 1991 graduate, identified as Michelle, said she supports the mascot. “We have been targeted repeatedly. Why aren’t the other 57 schools in Michigan being targeted? I’m educated, I’m not closed-minded, and I’m not a racist,” she said.