New York to enforce Native American mascot prohibition

New York will begin enforcing compliance with an old mascot policy around Native Americans.

Native American mascots, team names, or logos are forbidden to be used in school districts throughout the state of New York. And now the state’s department of education is advising the school to comply with the policy by the end of the academic year, or else face losing state funding.

The rule itself is over two decades old. 2001 is when schools were formally told to stop using Native American mascots. Some schools did, but others did not.

The new announcement isn’t a change two the existing policy but simply enforcement of the old one. Schools are to retire their mascots before the end of this school year or risk losing state funding or removal of school leadership.

A memo from the New York State Education Department highlighted their reasoning for the policy:

“A 2020 literature review on studies of Native American mascots by Laurel R. DavisDelano, et al. concluded that each study reviewed “demonstrate[d] either direct negative effects on Native Americans or that these mascots activate[d], reflect[ed], and/or reinforce[d] stereotyping and prejudice among non-Native persons.”

The New York Association of School Psychologists (NYASP) concluded that “research studies have consistently shown that the use of mascots and Indigenous symbols and imagery have a negative impact on not only Indigenous [students], but all students …”

The Dignity for All Students Act prohibits “the creation of a hostile environment … that … reasonably causes or would reasonably be expected to cause … emotional harm to a student,” a condition that could be created through the use of Native American mascots.

The Board of Regents (BOR) has taken affirmative measures, consistent with the Dignity Act, to promote positive learning environments in schools, including its Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education Framework and policy on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

This comes on the heels of a broader nationwide conversation about Native American mascots. Many college teams have already changed their mascots over the years. Even professional teams have changed their branding like Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Guardians, formerly the Indians, and the National Football League’s Washington Commanders, formerly the Redskins.

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