New York Schools Ordered to Ditch Native American Team Names, Mascots

A New York classroom. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The use of Native American imagery and mascots by athletic teams at New York public schools must soon come to an end, following a new guidance from the State Education Department.

A memo issued Thursday announced that schools using such depictions will be required to remove them by the end of the school year unless the usage has “current approval from a recognized tribe.” Per the Albany Times-Union:

About 60 school districts in the state still have nicknames or mascot images that reference indigenous people, the department estimated in June. The state says mascots or team names such as Red Raiders, Savages or Warriors depict a negative stereotypes of Native Americans as violent people.

James N. Baldwin, the senior deputy commissioner, cites a June decision from the State Supreme Court where the Cambridge Central School District lost its appeal to keep its “Indians” team name. The school board initially voted to retire the name and logo, but reversed the decision after new board members were elected. District residents challenged the move to the education department commissioner, who ruled in their favor.

“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.

Baldwin said schools that don’t comply with the requirement would be in violation of the Dignity for All Students Act.

“The penalties for such a violation include the removal of school officers and the withholding of State Aid,” he said.

New York Schools Must Ditch Indigenous Team Names, Mascots