A school district in Western New York has voted to bring an end to using its Redskins mascot after lacrosse teams in the area threatening to boycott games if the change wasn’t made.
The Lancaster Central School Board came to the unanimous decision during a special session held after three districts with large Native American student populations cancelled lacrosse games with the district.
A public forum on the issue was held on March 3. The event drew the attention of more than 100 people on both sides. The night was followed by boycotts of games from the Akron, Lake Shore and Niagara Wheatfield districts.
Some board members reported receiving threats due to the name. One board member said, “Sometimes the right thing to do is not the popular thing to do.”
The term “redskins” is considered to be a racist slur among segments of the Native American population.
Members of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation were at this meeting. “It’s come to this point, that it had to be acted on because it couldn’t linger and you didn’t want this thing to fester. We got our point across, but it’s a no win situation,” Hoyandahonh said.
Supporters of the mascot feel it is a source of pride for the district and is not meant to be a slur in any way, and many of whom had worn school uniforms and jackets bearing the symbol.
“All of these years we’ve never used it in a negative way,” Emily Koeppel, a Lancaster High School senior, said after the meeting. “It was never meant to be hurtful.”
However, Superintendent Michael Vallely felt it had become a “symbol of ethnic stereotyping.”
A number of high schools and universities across the country have come to the same decision with regards to their own logos in the past few years. Native American groups are banding together in an effort to push the NFL into removing it from the Washington, DC franchise.
“There is no pride in having schools boycott playing our sports teams,” said Kimberly Nowak, a board member. “There is no pride in winning by forfeit.”
A spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation of central New York, one of the groups involved in the NFL push, reported that those districts who had already removed their mascots, including Cooperstown, had not seen a decrease in school pride among their students.
A group of students will be selected to choose a new mascot for the district. There is no time limit for their decision. There is not anticipated to be a large cost associated with the mascot change, writes Ed Drantch for WKBW.
However, some students said they would continue to wear Redskins clothing. “This is our school,” said Torie Dombrowski, a student. “We are Redskins.”
Several of the school board members said they do not think they will run for office again.