FONDA — A month after the state Education Department handed down guidelines making it clear that mascots and nicknames inspired by Indigenous cultures must go in most cases, Fonda-Fultonville Central School District has started the process of selecting a new moniker.
The district, this week, launched an online portal where community members can suggest a new nickname to replace the current “Braves” name that has been in place for more than 70 years. The portal, which is open to students, alumni and community stakeholders, is available on the district’s website until June 23.
In the fall, a special committee “consisting of multiple stakeholder groups” will review the submitted names and compile a final list that will be voted on at the end of the current calendar year. Once a new mascot is voted and agreed upon, it will go into place for the 2024-25 academic year, according to the district.
All this comes after the state Board of Regents adopted regulations last month requiring dozens of school districts throughout New York to stop using mascots, logos and team names inspired by Indigenous cultures by the end of the 2024-25 academic year.
The Education Department began encouraging school districts to stop using Indigenous imagery in 2001, when former Education Commissioner Richard Mills sent notice to boards of education “to end the use of Native American mascots as soon as practical,” citing concerns that the use of Native American symbols or depictions as mascots could “become a barrier to building safe and nurturing school community and improving academic achievement for all students.”
Under the guidelines, schools with a pre-existing “written agreement” with a federal and state recognized Indigenous nation can continue to use the imagery. But boards of education for all other districts must commit to eliminating the imagery by adopting a resolution outlining plans on how they plan to stop using Indigenous imagery by the end of next month.
The imagery must be eliminated “within a reasonable time,” but no later than the end of the 2024-25 academic year.
Earlier this year, Fonda-Fultonville attempted to secure an agreement with a member of the Mohawk nation to continue using the Braves name under a rebranded and more patriotic name, but the bid was rejected by the state, due to the fact that the agreement was not made with a member of a federal or state recognized nation.
The state has encouraged all districts using names like Braves and Warriors to move on from the monikers, even if the names are no longer associated with Indigenous imagery.
“The question is not whether the words ‘braves’ or ‘warriors’ are offensive in the abstract, but whether their use is appropriate in school districts that have a history of utilizing stereotypical names and imagery,” the Education Department has stated.
A number of local school districts have already adopted new names, including Glen Falls City Schools, which dropped its “Indians” nickname in favor of the “Black Bears,” and the Schoharie Central School District, adopted the “Storm” nickname to replace its “Indians” moniker.
The Niskayuna Central School District, who go by the “Silver Warriors” have yet to adopt a new nickname. In Rotterdam, the Mohonasen Central School District must also replace its “Warriors” moniker and develop new logos to replace the current image of three Native Americans that has been in place for years.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.
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