ACLU files federal complaint against Paw Paw schools

Posted at 3:01 PM, Jan 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-21 15:47:51-05

DETROIT, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education saying that Paw Paw Public Schools maintain a racially hostile environment.

The district has been in the spotlight for using “Redskins” as the high school mascot and even voting to reinstate the mascot last year after public debate.

The ACLU complaint says that they filed a Freedom of Information Act for all racial incidents in the district from 2015 through 2017 and they outline several in their report. You can download and read the complaint here.

The ACLU is asking for a Dept. of Education investigation and that the district take steps to eliminate a racially hostile environment.

The Paw Paw Public Schools Superintendent Sonia Lark issued this statement Monday afternoon:

Today The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan notified Paw Paw Public Schools that it filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights alleging that the District maintains an environment hostile to racial, religious, and ethnic groups. The District has not received notice from the Office for Civil Rights about whether the complaint will be investigated.

The District denies the ACLU’s allegations and is disappointed that the ACLU made such claims without conducting sufficient and objective research. In the past 3 years, District administration received only a handful of race-based harassment claims, each of which the District promptly and effectively addressed. Contrary to the allegations in the ACLU’s complaint, District staff and administration work tirelessly to promote diversity and to encourage cultural sensitivity.

The District does not tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment. Students, parents, and staff are encouraged to contact the Superintendent’s Office to report incidents of unlawful discrimination or harassment. For more information about the District’s protocols and practices related to unlawful harassment, please see Board Policies 5517, which can be accessed by visiting the homepage of PPPS at

If the Office for Civil Rights decides to proceed with an investigation, Paw Paw Public Schools will fully cooperate and will at that time respond more fully to the allegations in the ACLU’s complaint.