Schools in New York can no longer have Native American mascots or team names without risking serious consequences.
In a letter sent to all school districts on Thursday, Nov. 17, the State Education Department’s Senior Deputy Commissioner, James Baldwin, ordered schools with a Native American mascot to find a replacement by the end of the 2022-23 school year.
The order also applies to team names and logos.
Schools that don’t retire their mascots could have their school officers removed or have state aid withheld, Baldwin said.
Thursday’s order came after the Cambridge Central School District in Washington County initially voted to change its “Indians” mascot in June 2021. A month later, the decision was reversed after a new school board member was elected.
The move to reinstate the mascot was then challenged by community members who filed an appeal with State Department of Education Commissioner Betty Rosa’s office.
Rosa later upheld the decision to change the mascot, saying that Cambridge’s continued use of the “Indians” logo “inhibited the creation of a safe and supportive environment for students.”
The school board challenged the decision, but a New York State Supreme Court judge later ruled in favor of the State Education Department and ordered the school to retire its Native American warrior mascot and “Indians” team name by July 2022.
As part of Thursday’s directive, schools that wish to keep their mascots must have current approval from a recognized Native American tribe.
“Schools are learning environments; students learn as much through observation of their surroundings as they do from direct instruction,” Baldwin writes in the letter.
“In addition to their legal obligations, boards of education that continue to utilize Native American mascots must reflect upon the message their choices convey to students, parents, and their communities.”
Read the complete New York State Education Department memo by clicking "See Attachment" below.See Attachment
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