The Katonah-Lewisboro School District released an online survey this week asking for members of the community to offer their input on the new mascot for John Jay High School and John Jay Middle School.
According to the district, all suggestions will be reviewed until the John Jay Mascot Steering Committee ends the survey on Sunday, Feb. 23.
Suggestions should “have a strong connection to (the) community; inspire passion and pride; and convey a positive image of the district, officials said. Entries should also avoid references that include race, ethnicity, gender, religion, weapons or mascots being used in nearby towns or school districts.
Staff and students will vote on the final choices before the steering committee makes its official recommendation to the school board in April.
In November last year, under the suggestion of Superintendent Andrew Selesnick, the Katonah-Lewisboro Board of Education reached a consensus to replace the mascot, noting that some in the community may find it offensive.
The Board reached an agreement that the mascot is dated and potentially not politically correct. However, some in the community rallied around the longtime mascot, and were reluctant to look into the idea of a new one.
“For some in our community, this change will be a relief and perhaps cause to celebrate. For others, it will be painful,” the superintendent said. “As I have in the past, I ask all to be understanding and respectful of differing points of view. And I’ll make a request that’s not much in keeping with our times. Let’s temper our reactions, out of respect for those whose feelings and opinions are at odds with our own.”
According to reports, the cost of replacing uniforms and changing the mascot could cost tens of thousands of dollars, including the repainting of the gym floor and replacing items in the gym.
Nationwide, school districts, organizations, and even professional sports teams have felt pressure to alter mascots or team names that represent Native Americans, leading to a national debate.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, “the intolerance and harm promoted by these ‘Indian’ sports mascots, logos, or symbols, have very real consequences for Native people.
“Specifically, rather than honoring Native peoples, these caricatures and stereotypes are harmful, perpetuate negative stereotypes of America’s first peoples, and contribute to a disregard for the personhood of Native peoples.”
Since 1963, no professional teams have established new mascots that use racial stereotypes in their names and imagery. In 2005, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) established an extensive policy to remove “Indian” mascots.
As a result, two-thirds, or more than 2,000 “Indian” references in sports have been eliminated in the past four decades, though nearly 1,000 still remain.
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