Brother Rice High School will continue the long tradition of having the 'Warriors' name and logo represent the school in athletics amid some calls for change to the use of Native American tribes and images by schools across the state.
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights announced last week that it sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Education urging for a ban on such use of names and imagery used by high schools. According to the Detroit Free Press, the department said that high school nicknames — such as Warriors — harms students’ education.
"A growing and unrebutted body of evidence now establishes that the use of American Indian imagery reinforces stereotypes in a way that negatively impacts the potential for achievement by students with American Indian ancestry," the department said in a filing to the U.S. Department of Education.
"Continued use of American Indian mascots, names, nicknames, logos, slogans, chants and/or other imagery creates a hostile environment and denies equal rights to all current and future American Indian students and must therefore cease." the Free Press reported.
The federal agency has not formally responded, and it's unclear if they will, as officials did not respond to messages left by Patch this week. It is also unclear if any action it takes would apply to private schools.
However, officials at Brother Rice reviewed their policies after the Free Press story and affirmed their continued use of the traditional mascot, said Ed Shaffer, the school's director of marketing and communications. Shaffer said that President John Birney conferred with legal counsel early this week and determined prior action taken by the school when the first objection came from Michigan Department of Civil Rights in 1989 were appropriate and still apply today.
Following that objection, Brother Rice banned use of an actual student mascot that dressed as a Native American and led cheers during games. The school also developed a deliberate review process for all school-spirit wear to prevent inappropriate images, and committed to improve education of the American Indian culture and history in our social studies and theology classes.
Brother Rice also sent letters to members of the Catholic League that asked for their support in prohibiting banners and cheers that are demeaning to Native Americans.
Shaffer said that Birney also explained in an email to staff that Brother Rice officials do not believe the Warriors logo — an artistic representation of an American Plains Indian Warrior — is demeaning. On the contrary, the school and coaches associate it with positive images of strength, honor and character, and do not find it racist, discriminatory or derogatory in any way, the emial stated.
Shaffer said there were no planned formal discussions on the matter, unless circumstances warrant further response.
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