Traverse City Record-Eagle

Other Views

June 8, 2013

Another View: Mascot bill embarrasses its sponsors

In his battle against the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, state Rep. Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Township, is lobbing another grenade. House Bill 4734, legislation Lauwers and Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, introduced ... would have the MDCR pay for its opposition to American Indian mascots some Michigan public schools have.

The battle began in February, when the MDCR filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education. In it, the civil rights department cited research that showed Native American mascots, logos and slogans were harmful to American Indian students. The complaint asked that they be removed from the 35 Michigan public schools that use them.

Genetski, Lauwers and 34 other lawmakers were so incensed that they fired off a letter that Genetski composed and the rest of them signed that demanded MDCR officials drop the complaint. The civil rights department didn’t relent. (The Department of Education has since rejected the complaint.)

There should be no misunderstanding about this proposed legislation. It’s designed to blackmail the MDCR.

Sure, Lauwers and Genetski said its purpose is to shield schools from financial harm should they be forced to do away with their racist mascots. The bill would create a $3 million fund for affected schools to use. MDCR’s budget would furnish the money.

The lawmakers’ February letter to the MDCR laid the groundwork for this bill.

“Should your complaint result in any federal funding being withheld to any of the 35 school districts named in your complaint, I will run legislation that will have the costs to local districts paid for from the budget of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights,” Genetski said.

Instead of compensating for lost federal funds, the MDCR will be on the hook for the cost of changing the mascots.

The lawmakers’ tempest might have some traction if it weren’t drenched in their opposition to the civil rights department’s position. The MDCR pointed to data to make its case. There is no evidence the lawmakers have examined it. If they have, they haven’t said anything about it.

So far, the leadership of the MDCR’s House critics has been reactive. What’s missing is an objective examination of the merits of the civil rights department’s complaint.

It’s easy to dismiss ideas they don’t like. Giving them a thorough look is a lot harder.

Lauwers and Genetski ought to be ashamed of themselves

The Times Herald, Port Huron



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