In November 2022, the New York State Education Department issued a memo prohibiting school mascots, athletic team names and logos from referencing or depicting Indigenous/Native Americans. At its April 2023 meeting, the Board of Regents formally adopted regulations designed to implement these prohibitions. It determined that schools that use such imagery or team names are in violation of The Dignity for All Students Act.
In the weeks following the adoption of the new regulations this spring, district leaders have carefully assessed how the new regulations might impact Niskayuna’s athletic team names, the Silver Warriors and the Mohawks (merged hockey) in light of the fact that over 25 years ago, Niskayuna thoughtfully ended the use of all Indigenous imagery associated with the “Silver Warriors” nickname. It’s important to note that our district completed this work long before the State Education Department first asked boards of education “to end the use of Native American mascots as soon as practical” in 2001.
As part of our review of how these new regulations apply to our team names, we studied guidance documents issued by the State Education Department and solicited a formal opinion from the department’s mascot advisory office. Of note, the most recent regulations make clear that school districts whose team names had made references to Indigenous peoples in the past, regardless of current practices, will need to retire these names. Based on our careful assessment and a direct response from the advisory office, we have concluded that both team names (Silver Warriors and Mohawks) exhibit historical ties to imagery depicting Indigenous peoples. We, therefore, have concluded that our district is required (by regulation) to retire both team names as soon as practicable.
The state’s regulations establish a timeline for districts to implement changes. Specifically, local boards of education must commit, via board resolution, to changing non-compliant team names no later than June 30, 2023. In addition, districts must eliminate all use of those team names no later than June 30, 2025, giving us two full school years to complete this work.
Niskayuna’s board of education will review a draft resolution on team names at its upcoming meeting on Tuesday, June 6. The board is expected to formally consider approval of the resolution at their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 20.
All of us at Niskayuna recognize the complexity of these actions and the wide range of emotions these actions will elicit from students, alumni, and families. At the same time, we also recognize the pain and harm that ongoing use of team names with Indigenous references can inflict on our students, our community, and the Indigenous peoples in our state and nation.
We will engage a team of stakeholders (students, staff, alumni, and residents) this summer to begin the important work of reimagining our team names and identities and we will keep the community updated of our team’s work via periodic updates on our website.
Carl J. Mummenthey
Superintendent of Schools