Is Braves mascot discriminatory?

GLADSTONE – The Gladstone School Board responded to allegations the Braves mascot is discriminatory at its school board meeting Monday night.

The response comes after the Michigan Department of Civil Rights filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Friday, claiming 35 Michigan schools’ use of Native American mascots and imagery denied equal rights to Native American students.

“It has been alleged that 35 schools in Michigan have done two things, they’ve created a hostile environment and they’ve discriminated and denied equal education,” said Gladstone Superintendent Jay Kulbertis. “I’m both offended personally and professionally, because there was no investigation. There wasn’t even a phone call.”

Not all Michigan schools that use Native American mascots are included on the list of schools named in the complaint, and the school board is unaware why Gladstone was named when other schools were not.

“It’s clear they used some sort of search, looking for key terms that came up more often than others,” said Board Vice President Steve O’Driscoll.

Kulbertis believes that however the list was generated, it was poorly researched.

Board President Linda Howlett said she was considering inviting the people responsible for the complaint to the annual Native American Honor Ceremony held for high school seniors.

“When you see the interaction between our students and our local Native Americans … it’s mind blowing. The respect, the mutual respect that is shown between our students and the Native Americans is phenomenal,” said Howlett.

Kulbertis has made contact with the governor’s office, the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Association of School Boards, and the Michigan Association of School Administrators to address the complaint.

“All of those individuals are working diligently to address this issue with the understanding that we should have our local community and our local Indian community be part of the process. We have that, we have evidence of that, and we’ll move forward in that regard,” he said.

Kulbertis believes a phone call would have been enough to prove that Gladstone and possibly other schools were not discriminating against Native American students.

“If that phone call would have lasted 10 minutes and someone made 35 phone calls, a single person could have answered all the questions in less than six hours and known exactly where we stand here in Gladstone, but instead a reckless report was filed that lumps all of these schools into the same category,” he said.

The board agreed the community is proud of the mascot and being called the “Braves.”

“Our students are proud to wear the purple and white and be Braves, and our staff (is) proud. We as parents are proud, and it’s amazing to me that anyone could, based on the superficial information that they have, file a complaint like this,” said Howlett.