CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (News10)-The Cambridge Central School District has filed another lawsuit last week appealing an earlier court ruling siding in favor of SED Commissioner Betty Rosa.
The head of New York State’s Department of Education has demanded the district remove the word Indians and the logo with a depiction of a male face wearing a feather.
The challenge, is the latest in series of legal moves by the Cambridge Central School District’s school board in an effort to keep its mascot, arguing that the commissioner overstepped her authority.
The document filed in the New York State Appellate Court claims Rosa ignored the “fundamental history of the use of Native American-themed imagery in Cambridge” when she demanded the district remove their Indians name and mascot. It goes on to read that the image created decades ago was quote, “specifically designed to honor Indigenous Peoples.”
The Cambridge Central School District is not alone in pushing back on the regulation, which once in place by the end of this school year, will ban all Native American mascot names and imagery in schools. The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Posted a message on their website citing a provision in the rules, saying they were seeking permission from Native American leaders to retain their mascot saying, “As a Board and district, we will work in a respectful manner to advocate for our district’s continued use of the “Braves” name, while taking into account the sensitive nature of this process.”
Other districts are embracing the change. In Glens Falls, high schoolers Jack Sweet, Liam Burgess and Jordan Phillips are with the Superintendent’s Student Cabinet. “The state has mandated that we change and there’s nothing we can do about it. But it’s also important to respect other cultures,” said Liam.
The three students work along with other members of the cabinet are tasked with collecting input from the student body and community members to find a new identity while replacing their old “Indians” nickname and imagery. “It’s extremely empowering to have that ability to make that change and lead it,” added Liam.
Superintendent Dr. Krislynn Dengler told News10’s Anya Tucker that she is really proud of the students and their investment in the project. “I really see the students leading this. This really needs to be their decision along with the community’s,” said Dengler. Student Cabinet members are scheduled to give an update to the Board of Education during their BOE meeting on March 13th.
Back in Cambridge, the lawsuit hasn’t come without fallout and division. Last week, a longtime school board member named Neil Gifford resigned after other board members voted to pursue the appeal. In a letter to superintendent Dr. Douglas Silvernell Gifford wrote, “Until last night’s Board of Education meeting, I remained hopeful that information, reason and empathy
would ultimately triumph in Board decision making.” He went on the write, “I cannot in good conscience serve on a board of a public educational institution that continues to use public resources to pursue personal agendas over objective, evidence-based decision making.”
Statement from office of Cambridge Central School District: “On Friday, Feb. 10, Neil Gifford submitted his letter of resignation from the Board of Education. His resignation took effect immediately. The Board of Education is assessing its options to fill his vacant seat. More information will be shared at the March 9 Board meeting.”
As for the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District, the district tells News10 they will “continue to process and seek clarification regarding the proposed regulation that was released by the New York State Education Department related to the use of Native American mascots and imagery.