State To School Districts: Lose The Native Mascots Or Lose Funding

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After an upstate district lost their bid to keep their mascot, school districts in New York state have been instructed to stop using Native American symbols and imagery as mascots, team names and logos by the end of the year or face the loss of state funding. Among the districts affected are Manhasset, Massapequa, Sewanhaka and Syosset.

The court’s decision “establishes that public school districts are prohibited from utilizing Native American mascots…Arguments that community members support the use of such imagery or that it is respectful to Native Americans are no longer tenable.” Baldwin wrote. “Those school districts that continue to utilize Native American team names, logos, and/or imagery without current approval from a recognized tribe must immediately come into compliance,” he continued.

The failure of districts “to affirmatively commit to replacing its team name, logo, and/or imagery by the end of the 2022 to 23 school year… may be a willful violation of the Dignity Act. The penalties for such a violation include the removal of school officers and the withholding of state aid,” Baldwin wrote.

“Schools are learning environments; students learn as much through observation of their surroundings as they do from direct instruction,” he wrote. “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.”

This information is not new; a memo went out in 2001 that stated the Department of Education’s opposition to the use of Native American symbols and depictions. “[F]ormer Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills issued a memorandum ‘conclud[ing] that the use of Native American symbols or depictions as mascots can become a barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community and improving academic achievement for all students.’”

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