NEW YORK STATE (WSYR-TV) — Following a meeting today, April 18, the New York State Board of Regents has unanimously approved new rules that will ban the use of Native American culture used by schools.

This includes names, logos, and mascots. As well as the schools, school buildings, and districts.

Back in November of 2022, NYSED sent the ruling to all New York school districts, requiring those with a Native American mascot to find a replacement.

The notice stated:

In 2001, former Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills issued a memorandum “conclud[ing] that the use of Native American symbols or depictions as mascots can become a barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community and improving academic achievement for all students.” Commissioner Mills recognized that, while a role for local discretion existed, “there is a state interest in providing a safe and supportive learning environment for every child.” He asked
boards of education “to end the use of Native American mascots as soon as practical.”

Adding that, schools are learning environments and choosing to use Native American mascots is a reflection of “the message their choices convey to students, parents and their communities.”

There are currently three school districts in our area that are still using or are phasing out Native American Symbols, those schools being the Bradford Central Braves, Watkins Glen Senecas, and Canisteo-Greenwood Redskins.

Both the Watkins Glen Central School District and the Canisteo-Greenwood Central School District have already made plans into changing their mascots from using Native American symbols to something else, with Canisteo-Greenwood planning to have a new one by the end of the school year.

An update was made by the Watkins Glen Central School District on March 8, 2023, regarding the attempt to keep the name Senecas, but was advised it would not pass a vote by the New York State Education Department.

The school district says they plan to, “meet all timelines set forth by NYSED to retire ‘Senecas’ as the name of our athletic teams.”

18 News has received a statement from each of the school districts when asked if they have changed their mascots, and their plans going forward.

We are awaiting clarifying guidance documents for the just adopted NYS regulations on this topic. We will most likely commit to changing this year, then work through that process next year.

John R. Marshall, Superintendent Bradford Central School District

We have not adopted a new team name yet as we were waiting for the regulations to become official.We have casted a wide net survey to get stakeholder input.The District Governance Team will review the list and send it to the student body to for input. Our goal is to have a new team name by our reorganization meeting on July 10for official adoption. Branding and mascot work will come after the team name is established.

Kai D’Alleva, Superintendent Watkins Glen CSD

We have not (decided on a new mascot). The Mascot Committee made the recommendation to change the mascot based on their work, prior to the State Education memo. The BOE will be acting on a resolution to change it and we will begin the changeover process shortly after. 

Thomas J. Crook, Superintendent Canisteo-Greenwood CSD