By Lena Williams, Guild-CWA :: Add Lancaster High School in Lancaster, N.Y. to the growing lists of school districts, journalists, media companies, sportscasters and sports teams to ban the use of “Redskins” as a nickname.
The decision was made recently by the school board in the Buffalo suburb, coming after months of debate, political wrangling, hurt feelings and community protests.
But in the end, the members of the board of education reached the same conclusion many other Americans have in recent months: the name “Redskins” is offensive to Native Americans.”
Marie MacKay, a board member, said the board “could not deny that the word is a slur to Native Americans.”
The name controversy had gripped the community since last September when it was first proposed that the school mascot name be dropped. Meetings were held with students, parents and local Native American tribal leaders. Threats were made to unseat board members who voted for the change. There were protests, large and small, some in support of maintaining the name, others opposed to it. Three neighboring school districts with significant Native American populations cancelled lacrosse matches with Lancaster High School. Supporters urged the board to stick with what they viewed as a harmless 68-year-old tradition, arguing the name is meant to honor, not dishonor Native Americans.
The board weighed both sides of the argument and voted to change the name over the objections of many who had gathered in a school cafeteria for the board meeting.
“We are a school district, not a billionaire-run football team,” Patrick Uhteg, the board’s vice president said. The board, he said, had an obligation to “set an example” for students and the community.
Uhteg, MacKay and other board members noted that the issue wasn’t about the name of its schools’ mascots but about the achievements of its students, teachers and faculty and what the community should stand for.
“That is what we are proud of, our accomplishments as a school and community, not as a mascot,” MacKay said.