School districts in New York state that do not change their Native American-themed mascots are at risk of losing state aid or having their officials removed, the state Education Department this week announced in a new guidance.
Top education officials in New York are reiterating their opposition to the use of Native American images and mascots for schools amid an ongoing legal battle with the Cambridge Central School District in Washington County.
The guidance released by the state Education Department calls for the end of Native American mascots and imagery at schools by the end of the current school year this spring.
"The penalties for such a violation include the removal of school officers and the withholding of State Aid," the guidance states.
Schools that keep the mascots in place are "in willfill violation" of the Dignity for All Students Act, which is meant to bar hostile environments and emotional harm for students — a condition education officials believe is created by Native American-theme mascots.
It's not clear how many of the state's 700 or so school districts continue to use Native American-themed mascots or logos beyond the dispute with Cambridge.
"Schools are learning environments; students learn as much through observation of their surroundings as they do from direct instruction," the guidance stated. "In addition to their legal obligations, boards of education that continue to utilize Native American mascots must reflect upon the message their choices convey to students, parents, and their communities."