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New York will weigh banning Indigenous mascots and logos in schools

In this file photo, the Banks High School mascot is shown on the wall of the school gym in Oregon.
Rick Bowmer
/
AP
In this file photo, the Banks High School mascot is shown on the wall of the school gym.

A proposal to ban Native American mascots and logos could affect New York public schools that use names and imagery.

The Board of Regents will discuss a potential ban on the use of Native American names and imagery as team logos or mascots. The state Education Department told Newday that the board will vote on the ban next week.

If the board votes to implement the ban, schools in New York will have until the end of the 2024-2025 school year to rename or remove mascots. Local federally recognized tribes are eligible to ask for a written exemption from the ban.

The ban would affect 55 school districts in New York state and 12 high schools on Long Island. Schools with native-themed mascots or names will be required to remove imagery on buildings, courts, fields and uniforms. This would require some school districts to remove images from synthetic turf fields, repaint buildings and order new uniforms.

The changes could cost thousands of dollars to implement. According to the proposed rule, districts can request financial aid to make the changes, citing it would cause extensive economic hardship. School districts can also petition for an extension on the deadline.

The Department of Education stated that refusal to remove the imagery could leave schools at risk of being denied certain state aid or school officials could lose their jobs. Senior Deputy Commissioner James N. Baldwin cited the Dignity for All Students Act in a memo sent to schools in November.

If implemented, New York would be among 21 other states that have considered taking formal action to ban the use. States like Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Hampshire and Oregon have implemented similar bans. Other states have chosen to ban specific names or review on a case-by-case basis.

Jeniece Roman is WSHU's Report for America corps member who writes about Indigenous communities in Southern New England and Long Island, New York.