New York school elects to drop ‘Redskins’ nickname

March 20, 2015 / Athletic Administration
Lancaster High School in western New York is the latest school to quit using the “Redskins” nickname after its board of education determined the term was offensive to Native Americans.

Lancaster Central Senior High School, New York.
Lancaster Central Senior High School, New York.

The school has not yet decided on an alternative nickname, but the decision comes after months of discussions with students, parents and local Native American tribal leaders, according to The article notes that three school districts near Lancaster with large Native American populations had canceled lacrosse matches with the school during the last month over its name. The board, concerned the nickname was having a negative impact on its students, decided a change had to be made.

From the article:

“The name of a school mascot should not be offensive to anyone,” said Patrick Uhteg, the board’s vice president who referenced without naming Washington’s NFL team, which uses the same name and has been embroiled in a years-long controversy of its own.

“We are a school district, not a billionaire-run football team,” Uhteg said. As such, the board had an obligation to “set an example” for students and the community. 

The Lancaster decision was not without controversy. Board president Kenneth Graber said that he and his fellow members had received threats that they would face campaigns to unseat them in upcoming elections, and at times during the hearing, chants from supporters nearly drowned out members’ speeches. As in other debates, supporters of the name have cited Lancaster’s tradition and its intent to honor Native Americans in arguing to keep the name.

“They do not feel honored,” Graber said of many members of the local Native American community, who he said had been involved in the discussion over the school’s mascot perhaps for the first time. And he assured the crowd that “everyone here is only acting in the best interests of all our students,” rather than capitulating to outside interests or being swayed by the national debate.

Lancaster is not the only school to make this decision in recent months, and school districts across the nation continue to grapple with whether they will change. Conrad Schools of Science in Delaware this week announced its plans to drop the nickname before the 2015-16 school year.

Lancaster’s decision did not come without protest. Parents and other community members spoke out against the change, and on Thursday hundreds of high school and middle school students staged a walkout over the decision.

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