Michigan school district accused of fostering a 'racially hostile educational environment' where a teacher allegedly called a student's use of a swastika 'artistic'

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  • Paw Paw Public Schools, a school district in southwest Michigan, was accused of having a “racially hostile educational environment.”
  • The American Civil Liberties Union filed a racial discrimination complaint against the school district on January 21.
  • ACLU attorney Mark Fancher said there have been multiple incidents of racial discrimination, including use of racial slurs, at the school since 2015.
  • In one alleged incident, a teacher called a student’s use of a swastika in a school project “artistic,” according to the complaint.

A Michigan school district that was previously criticised for having a Native American mascot is now accused of having a “racially hostile educational environment” that hurts students from marginalized groups, according to a complaint filed by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Michigan office.

Paw Paw Public Schools in southwest Michigan is accused of having numerous instances of discrimination against racial, religious and ethnic groups between 2015 and 2017, ACLU attorney Mark Fancher told the Detroit Free Press.

One incident allegedly involved a teacher calling a student’s use of a swastika in a school project “artistic,” according to the ACLU.

In another alleged incident, a student pushed a classmate and called him the N-word, the complaint claims.

In yet another instance, a student claimed his classmates had told him to “go back to Mexico,” and “go back to your country now and pick blueberries,” according to the complaint, which was filed January 21 with the US Department of Education.

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Other allegations included “ongoing acts of harassment, discrimination, bullying, intimidation, and use of imagery and language that causes humiliation,” the ACLU complaint said.

“The level of fear that appears to exist in that community among groups that have been targeted by the bigotry is such that we really felt something extraordinary needed to happen in that community,” Fancher told The Free Press.

District Superintendent Sonia Lark issued a statement to the Free Press denying the allegations.

“District staff and administration work tirelessly to promote diversity and to encourage cultural sensitivity,” Lark said. “The district does not tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment.”

Paw Paw Public Schools made headlines last year after the district’s board of education voted to reinstate the high school’s “Redskins” mascot.

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