EducationThe Putnam Examiner

Plans Unveiled to Change Indians School Mascot in Mahopac

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The Indians mascot and logo that have been fixtures in the Mahopac School District for decades will soon be eliminated. During a Jan. 17 Board of Education work session, Superintendent of Schools Christine Tona unveiled a plan for the district to choose a new mascot name by June 30, with full implementation no later than June 30, 2025.

“While I have not been in the Mahopac community for very long, I know that the Mahopac Indians mascot has been a longstanding tradition used to recognize the indigenous people who have lived in our beautiful community long before all of us,” Tona stated.

“Our objective is to select a new mascot that embodies the Mahopac spirit, provides school district recognition, and invokes pride and enthusiasm,” she added.

The Mahopac School District is one of about 2,000 nationwide that still use a Native American as a mascot, but state officials have threatened to withhold state aid for any that may be in “willful violation” of The Dignity For All Students Act.” About 60 districts in New York still use a Native American mascot or logo.

In a Nov. 17 memo, State Education Department Senior Deputy Commissioner James Baldwin wrote, “In addition to their legal obligations, boards of education that continue to utilize Native American mascots must reflect upon the message their choices convey to students, parents and their communities.”

The State Education Department has opposed the use of Native American mascots for the last 20 years. In 2001, former Commissioner of Education Richard Mills issued a memorandum that stated “the use of Native American symbols or depictions as mascots can become a barrier to building a safe and nurturing school community and improving academic achievement for all students.”

Tona explained a Mascot Selection Committee will be established in Mahopac, consisting of approximately 60 individuals representing diverse perspectives in the community. Committee members will include students, staff, alumni and residents from a variety of organizations and neighborhoods.

She said the committee will meet several times between February and April to determine several mascot name options.

On May 16, all students from kindergarten to 12th grade will have an opportunity to vote on the name of the mascot from options that the committee determines. The results of that vote will be revealed at the May 18 Board of Education meeting.

Tona said a logo to support the new mascot will be created during the summer and will be unveiled in September.

The Education Department is giving school districts until the end of this school year to have a plan in place to replace any “Indians” mascots or nicknames and until the end of the 2024-25 school year to implement it. The state recently announced a 60-day public comment period will be held before the Board of Regents votes on the matter in April.

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