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DOE requiring NYS schools to drop Native American mascots or risk losing funding

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School mascots have to change

HERKIMER, N.Y. -- The New York State Department of Education (DOE) is now requiring all New York State schools to drop any Native American imagery or names as their mascots or risk losing state funding.

Herkimer BOCES Superintendent, Sandra Sherwood said the new requirement did not come as a surprise to her, stating that the education commissioner made the new requirement a focus area for the upcoming school year six or seven months ago.

At least eight districts in NewsChannel 2's viewing area have Native American mascots.

Sherwood believes historical background will play a big part in the switches.

"I think it's going to be a matter of what is the historical nature. And I do believe that probably upstate New York has heavy Native American influences so many will trace back," Sherwood said.

According to the DOE they are still developing regulations for the new requirement and issues will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Districts will have until the end of this school year to comply with the directive or risk the loss of funding and even school officers such as the superintendent.

Sherwood says that both schools that use the current "Indians" mascot, West Canada Valley and Richfield Springs, have already started discussions about the change.

The state recommends any districts that have questions about the process, reach out to schools that have already retired their mascot.

The Oneida Indian Nation takes these references seriously and pushed for the name change of the Washington NFL team, which became the Washington Commanders earlier this year.

Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter released the following statement on the DOE decision:

“The Oneida Indian Nation believes that the institutions that teach our children need to be places of safety and tolerance. Schools should be going out of their way to make children of all ethnicities and heritages feel comfortable - that is what the New York State Education Department is attempting to do with their notice to schools to remove Native American mascots. At its core, this issue is really about how this state views its responsibilities to an increasingly diverse population. For too long, we have permitted old traditions to persist - the kind that suggest, in some circumstances, that it is acceptable to use dictionary defined slurs as mascots, like was the case with the Washington NFL team before they changed their names.

Native American organizations, civil rights groups and public health organizations have made clear the damage that the mascotization of Native people has on our youth. Promoting inclusivity and mutual respect is the best way to unify our communities moving forward.”

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