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New York state education officials vote to prohibit public schools from using Indigenous team names, logos or mascots

The Salamanca High School football field, featuring the school's Warrior mascot, in Salamanca, N.Y., April 14, 2023. The New York Board of Regents is expected to approve a policy barring school nicknames like "the Warriors." A provision allows their use if a tribal nation endorses them. (Brandon Watson/The New York Times)

(CNN) — New York state education officials voted unanimously this week to prohibit public schools from using or displaying Indigenous team names, logos, or mascots to represent the school.

Throughout the state, boards of education must commit through a resolution to eliminating the use of all Indigenous imagery by the end of the current school year, and the prohibited names, logos, or mascots must be eliminated by the 2024-25 school year, according to regulations laid out by the New York State Board of Regents.

The amendment, which was approved Tuesday, does not require public schools, school buildings, or school districts named after an Indigenous tribe to change their names.

Educators are still allowed to use Indigenous imagery for the purposes of classroom instruction, the regulations say, and schools may keep Indigenous imagery if a written agreement exists between a federally recognized tribal nation and the school using a name, mascot or logo associated with that tribe.

The changes will become effective as a permanent rule on May 3, according to the Board of Regents. If school districts fail to comply, school officers could be removed or state aid could be withheld, according to the regulations.

The National Congress of American Indians voiced its support for the changes in a statement to CNN.

“Native ‘themed’ mascots dehumanize Native people and diminish the enduring vibrancy and diversity of our distinct cultures, values, and lifeways,” Executive Director Larry Wright Jr. wrote in a statement. “Crucially, research in recent years documents the well-known harms that the monikers, images, and fan behaviors associated with these mascots cause Native people, particularly Native youth.”

There are “issues that will need to be reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” the state Department of Education said in a statement, and more guidance is forthcoming but mirrors the language laid out in the regulations, according to the department.

“The Department can provide assistance to any school or district that has questions,” the statement says. “The Department’s position is that any team names, logos, or mascots that contain vestiges of prohibited team names, logos, or mascots will not be considered acceptable.”

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