The New York Department of Education ordered in-state schools to remove Native-American team names, mascots, and/or logos by the end of the academic year.
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Thursday’s mandate from James N. Baldwin, the NYDOE’s senior deputy commissioner, includes one exception: Schools with nicknames, logos, or mascots that derive from recognized Native-American tribes may keep the affiliation — presuming schools can get approval from the tribe.
“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,” wrote Baldwin, in a widely distributed letter.
Baldwin added: “Should they require guidance, districts may reach out to those districts that successfully retired their mascots or their local Board of Cooperative Education Services. The Department is developing regulations that will clarify school districts’ obligations in this respect.”
The 2022-23 academic year in New York typically closes in late spring, meaning the schools in search of a new identity have roughly six months to settle on a permanent moniker before the summer break.
For schools that don’t comply with Baldwin’s mandate, the offending districts could be in violation of New York’s Dignity For All Students Act.
The language of the law “seeks to provide the State’s public elementary and secondary school students with a safe and supportive environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment, and bullying on school property, a school bus and/or at a school function.”
As part of the violation process, schools also run the risk of losing school officers and state funding, according to the NYSED letter.
The Dignity For All Students law, which was first proposed by the New York state Senate in 2010, has been on the books for 10 years.
The National Congress of American Indians reports that more than 1,900 schools in the U.S. have a Native-American-themed mascot.
That national figure also includes New York state. According to the Times-Union, approximately 60 school districts still feature nicknames or mascots that involve Native Americans.