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School districts in New York State are prohibited from using Native American mascots, team names, or logos. And the state’s education department is now urging his school to comply by the end of the school year — or risk losing state aid.
The ban is not new: the former state education commissioner issued a memorandum ending the practice more than two decades ago. And while some school districts retired their mascots almost immediately, others are still not compliant today. On Thursday, the Education Department’s senior deputy commissioner sent a memo to all school districts in the state demanding that all school districts take action before the end of the 2022-23 school year.
“Schools are learning environments; students learn as much through observation of their environment as through direct instruction,” Senior Deputy Commissioner James N. Baldwin wrote in the memo.
Penalties for breaking the law, Baldwin warned in the memo, could result in the loss of state assistance and the removal of school officials from office.
If a school district fails to remove its Native American mascot, the Department of Education will find it in violation of the Dignity for All Students Act. State lawmakers passed the measure more than a decade ago to provide “all New York City public school students with an environment free from discrimination and harassment.”
An estimated 60 school districts in the state still use a Native American mascot or logo, according to the Union Times. And across the United States, nearly 2,000 school districts also feature an Indigenous mascot, according to the National Congress of American Indians.