MECHANICVILLE – The Mechanicville City School District has acknowledged that the visual representation of its Red Raiders mascot is not in line with recent state Legislature seeking to remove any race-based team names and logos.
But the Red Raider name is not going anywhere.
Superintendent of Schools Bruce Potter spoke with The Daily Gazette in July about the potential change in the school district and in November began creating a committee made up administration and community members to discuss the issue.
“The mascot name or Red Raiders is not up for discussion as the Board of Education is committed to maintaining the proud history of our school and athletic department identity,” Potter wrote in the invitational memo.
“It is the goal of this committee to develop, design, and select a new logo that is not racially or ethically insensitive,” Potter’s memo stated.
Some 995 high schools use team names and mascots derived from indigenous people, 50 are New York state schools, according to Wikipedia.
In Section II six schools carry the Indians name – Cambridge, Coxsackie-Athens, Glens Falls, Hoosic Valley, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk and Schoharie — along with the summer baseball league in Schenectady and the former Mont Pleasant High School.
Canajoharie High School changed its mascot from the Redskins to the Cougars in 2000.
In 2001, then-New York State Commissioner of Education Richard P. Mills drafted a memo to all school board presidents and superintendents of public schools on mascots.
“After careful thought and consideration, I have concluded that the use of Native American symbols or depictions as mascots can become a barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community and (to) improving academic achievement for all students,” Mills wrote. “I ask superintendents and school boards to lead their communities to a new understanding of this matter. I ask boards to end the use of Native American mascots as soon as practical.”
Since then, the Washington football team has removed its Redskins mascot and the Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball team announced on Monday that it would discontinue its Indians mascot after the 2021 season.
State Sen. Peter Harckham, D-Westchester, introduced a bill in July that would require school districts with race-based mascots to at least once a year dedicate a portion of a meeting to discuss racial sensitivity.
Potter acknowledged the spirit of the legislator’s proposal, but stood behind the school district’s desire to keep the Red Raider name.
“We did some research and there are dozens of Red Raider mascots across the country that have zero affiliation with Native American heritage,” Potter replied in an email to The Gazette. “This fact, allows us the ability to keep our name, which has tradition and develop an appropriate logo that is culturally responsive.”
The Mechanicville memo states that the first committee meeting would be Jan. 6.
It would be the charge of the committee to develop a new logo and submit it to the Board of Education for its approval or denial. Once approved, the district would contact a graphic artist to complete the logo design and then notify the media and vendor outlets of the approved change.