John Jay High School in Cross River may soon have a new mascot patrolling its sidelines as the Katonah-Lewisboro School Board grapples with what has been described as a “divisive symbol” by some school officials.
At the most recent Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17, dozens showed up to debate the idea of replacing the district’s popular, but controversial, Indian mascot.
According to reports, the school board is in agreement that the mascot is dated and potentially not politically correct, noting that the superintendent should consider a change. However, some in the community rallied around the longtime mascot, and are reluctant to look into the idea of a new one.
The board has been debating a mascot change for decades but has never made a change. No timeline has been set forth by school officials for when a final decision may be made.
"As you might be aware, our Indians mascot has been discussed on multiple occasions over several decades," Schools Superintendent Andrew Selesnick previously said. "As I mentioned to our board, I would view a renewed conversation as an opportunity for Katonah-Lewisboro to show its best self. While the topic has the potential to be divisive, my hope is to design a process that will be unifying for our students and our community."
Two years ago, John Jay students voted to keep the Indians nickname.
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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