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Michigan superintendent wants to fine schools with certain mascots

Michigan State Superintendent Brian Whiston said Tuesday that he is seeking legal counsel on whether he can fine schools with Native American or other culturally incentive mascots. (Mike Simons/Getty Images)

Michigan State Superintendent Brian Whiston wants to begin fining schools that do not remove Native American mascots or logos.

According to MLive.com, Whiston announced Tuesday at the State Board of Education meeting that he is inquiring about whether his office has the authority to fine schools with mascots that some argue are culturally insensitive.

"We're waiting for that answer," Whiston said. "If [Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette] comes back and says 'No, we don't have that authority,' it could go to the Legislature and it would be up to the Legislature if they want to give us that authority."

Should Schuette issue a legal opinion in Whiston's favor, schools with Native American mascots could be fined 5 to 10 percent of a school district's state aid payment, MLive.com reported.

Whiston told MLive.com that he would issue a letter that warned a school it would have 60 days to reconsider changing its mascot before a fine is implemented.

"I still don't have the authority to force the change," Whiston said. "But they would know they would face a financial fine for not changing."

Schools where complaints have been made about the mascot would be targeted first.

Michigan's State Board adopted a resolution in 2003 that "strongly recommend[ed]" schools eradicate any Native American fight song, logo, mascot and nickname. That resolution was again reaffirmed by the board in 2010 with the addition that the issue of mascots should be addressed locally, according to MLive.com.

Michelle Fecteau, a board member, told MLive.com that the State Board must make sure every student feels safe in school — including Native American students who could feel "maligned or ridiculed" because of a mascot.

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