Enrichment Education

New York schools ordered to change Native American team names, mascots or risk losing funding

Schools can only keep logo, mascot or nickname associated with Native Americans if they get approval from a recognized tribe.
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Story at a glance

  • The New York State Education Department has asked schools to drop any Native American logos, mascots or nicknames by the end of the year.

  • Schools run the risk of losing state aid if they do not change their mascot or logo.  

  • Schools with a Native American-themed mascot, nickname or logo can keep it if they get approval from a recognized tribe.  

New York schools must remove all Native American team names, mascots, or logos by the end of the school year, the state’s department of education ordered this week.  

The New York State Education Department’s Senior Deputy Commissioner James N. Baldwin announced the mandate in a letter addressed to all school districts on Thursday, Nov. 17.  

In the letter, Baldwin notes schools may keep Native American logos, mascots, team names, or any other imagery only if they have the approval to do so from a recognized tribe.  

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Schools have until the end of the 2022-23 academic year to receive such approval or remove any Native American imagery, alter mascots or change team names.  

“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,” the letter reads.  

“Should they require guidance, districts may reach out to those districts that successfully retired their mascots or their local Board of Cooperative Education Services. The Department is developing regulations that will clarify school districts’ obligations in this respect.” 

Schools that do not replace logos, team names or imagery by the end of the year run will be in violation of the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, a law that aims at creating school environments free of harassment or discrimination.  

The law was passed by the New York state senate in 2010 and went into effect two years later.  

In violating the law, schools run the risk of losing school officers and state aid, according to the NYSED letter.  

There has been a broad push across the country to retire Native American mascots on professional teams and in schools. But some areas have been slower to drop nicknames, mascots, or imagery that perpetuate stereotypes about indigenous communities.  

NYSED has said there are still roughly 60 school districts in the state that still have nicknames or mascots that reference indigenous, according to the Times Union.  

There are currently over 1,900 schools across the United States with a Native-themed mascot, according to the National Congress of American Indians.