District responds to NYSED memo regarding use of Native American mascots

On Thursday, November 17th, the Weedsport Central School District was made aware of an order from the New York State Education Department to commit to replacing Native American mascots by the end of the 2022-23 school year.

The state department memo specifically references a June 2022 court case, in which the Cambridge Central School District reversed its decision to retire its “Indians” team name, logo, and mascot. The court ruled that “public school districts are prohibited from utilizing Native American mascots. Arguments that community members support the use of such imagery or that it is “respectful” to Native Americans are no longer tenable.”

The memo goes on to say, “Should a district fail to affirmatively commit to replacing its Native American team name, logo, and/or imagery by the end of the 2022-23 school year, it may be in willful violation of the Dignity Act. The penalties for such a violation include the removal of school officers and the withholding of State Aid.”

Further, the memo also states, “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.”

Weedsport has every intention of following this state directive. For now, the District is waiting for clarification from New York state regarding our obligations.

“At this time, the District is carefully reviewing the state order with members of the Board of Education,” explained Superintendent Shaun O’Connor.

In our understanding, the state is asking districts to commit to changing their mascots by the end of the school year, with the knowledge that making those changes will take more time to complete.

We aim to keep the community informed every step of the way as we navigate these state-ordered changes. We appreciate community members’ patience and understanding as we move forward with this process.