The New York State Education Department (SED) is requiring schools with Native American mascots to replace their mascots, team names, and logos by the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
The ruling from SED was sent to all New York school districts in a memo on Thursday, November 17th. The decision comes from the mascot controversy of Cambridge Central School District which voted to retire its mascot, the Indians, in June of 2021. But then a new board reversed that decision a month later.
As a consequence of the reversal, parents petitioned SED Commissioner Betty Rosa’s office to intervene. Commissioner Rosa upheld the decision to change the mascot, which the Cambridge School Board challenged in court. Albany County Supreme Court Justice Sara W. McGinty then ruled in SED’s favor, ordering the district to retire the use of the Native American mascot, name, and logo.
In the memo to schools, SED Senior Deputy Commissioner Kames Baldwin said:
“Arguments that community members support the use of such imagery or that it is “respectful” to Native Americans are no longer tenable.”
The memo also cites several sources that show the:
“use of mascots and Indigenous symbols and imagery have a negative impact on not only Indigenous [students], but all students.”
Schools that wish to keep their mascots must have express approval from a recognized Native American tribe. Those that do not comply with NYSED’s guidance run the risk of having their school officials removed and State aid withheld.
For questions about SED compliance or other education and employment issues, reach out to The Coppola Firm. We’re here to help.