NYSED orders schools to end the use of Native American mascots

This evening, the New York State Education Department has ordered all school districts in the state to remove the “Indian” mascot and associated icons (the arrowhead included) from the public school system. 

Specifically, the order states, “​​the court’s decision establishes that public school districts are prohibited from utilizing Native American mascots. Arguments that community members support the use of such imagery or that it is ‘respectful’ to Native Americans are no longer tenable.” The directive goes on to state that “should a district fail to affirmatively commit to replacing its Native American team name, logo, and/or imagery by the end of the 2022-23 school year, it may be in willful violation of the Dignity Act. The penalties for such a violation include the removal of school officers and the withholding of State Aid.”

Dr. Dengler just received the directive at 3:30 p.m. and our leadership team is carefully reviewing the implications of this order. Here’s what we understand so far:

Q: Does the district have to comply with this order?

Yes. The district has every intention of honoring the ruling made by NYSED. While the order contains a deadline of June 2023 to “affirmatively commit to replacing … Native American team name, logo, and/or imagery,” we have yet to determine a timeline for removal of Indian-associated items on our sports uniforms, furniture, and in our buildings (ex. the high school gymnasium floor). As you may know, our turf field is already scheduled to be replaced as part of the upcoming capital project. 

This decision from the state was made without our consultation, and we are digesting the decision in real time, just as many of you are as well. We want to create a process to work together as a community and figure out how to best navigate this new road we’re traveling down together.

Our community has long embraced the ‘GF Nation’ moniker as a source of pride and togetherness. While we’re at the very beginning stages of this process for finding a new mascot, we feel it’s important to look back on our unique legacy and create something original that reminds us all of where we come from and what we represent.

Q: How would we choose a new mascot as a school community?

Our current student body needs to be a significant driver in this process, and we want them to have a voice in how the district can best represent all of our students moving forward. We will never ignore the opinions and feelings of those who call Glens Falls home, and the students that currently walk our school hallways need to have a role in how our search for a new mascot and logo moves forward. We will provide updates throughout the entire process to make sure our community is an equal partner in this decision. Our mindset moving forward is “when we know better, we do better.” 

Q: What about my connection to, and feelings about, our mascot and our logo?

We are extremely appreciative and understanding of the history that is tied to our team name and the passion our school community feels towards our logo. Many of us have deep memories tied to victories and moments of triumph from our student-athletes over the years.  This decision doesn’t change any achievements made on our various playing fields. We have an obligation to follow the ruling, and we will honor the mandate as written by our state officials.