Dept. of Civil Rights Files Complaint Against Use of American Indian Mascots

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The 'Big Red' name is a point of pride at Lansing Sexton High School.

The school's athletic teams have held that name since it first opened, but that could soon change, if the Michigan Department of Civil Rights gets its way.

The department filed a complaint, Friday morning, with the U.S. Department of Education, saying the use of American Indian-based mascots creates an 'unequal learning environment'.

"American Indian students perform at a lower level where American Indian imagery is present," said Leslee Fritz, Spokesperson for the Department of Civil Rights. "That stereotyping leads to questioning of self-image, self-esteem and we're seeing those challenges in the results."

Now, they're asking the federal government to make a law that would affect hundreds of schools across the country.

"No longer allowing schools to use American Indian mascots, images, nicknames, logos, etc," said Fritz.

The complaint lists 35 schools in Michigan, including Sexton, that would have to change their mascot names if it goes through.

Sexton Athletic Director Jarrod Beebe doesn't want to see that happen.

"I don't think it really makes too much sense," said Beebe, who is both of American Indian heritage and a graduate of the school. "To see it up there as a mascot, I'm appreciative of it."

On Friday, the Sexton basketball team played the Okemos High School Chiefs, who recently changed their own logo by officially removing an American Indian image. They are not one of the 35 schools on the complaint.

"We've worked through it as a community, made the decision and tried to focus on what we could use with 'Chiefs' as our logo," said Okemos Athletic Director, Bob Bullock.

The same could happen to Sexton.

The complaint does have a way for schools to avoid changing their mascots. If a name is locally significant and has the support of the tribe involved, schools can continue using names and images in a respectful way.

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