MANHASSET, N.Y. (PIX11) — Native American mascots and names will soon no longer be allowed at nearly 60 schools across New York state, including nearly a dozen in the New York City region.

It’s a new rule adopted by the New York State Board of Regents, which governs educational policies for the state. Its members voted unanimously on the proposed rule at their monthly meeting in Albany late Tuesday morning.

The decision said that any public schools that use Native American names, mascots, or imagery will lose state funding. The rule goes into effect after the 2024-2025 school year, but schools that currently have Native American mascots have to commit by the end of this academic year to making a change.

Tamryn Etess, a senior at Syosset High School, whose mascot name is “The Braves,” said that if this academic year is the last in which students at her school get to have that moniker, she’d be proud.

“But it’s also disappointing that the trend has to discontinue,” Etess said. “‘Braves’ has such a big past, and a big history, and it doesn’t portray anything negative. It just reminds us that the Native Americans were here first.”

There’s been a variety of efforts in our region to get Native American names and mascots changed. In 2020, a petition targeting Syosset HIgh School’s mascot garnered nearly 6,000 signatures.

Another petition targeted the Manhasset Secondary School, whose student body is referred to as The Indians. The petition calling for the mascot name to be changed also got nearly 6,000 signatures. Meanwhile, a competing petition calling for the mascot name to remain got a fraction of what the others did — just over 1,100.

Syosset resident George Reid made a point about why time is needed for schools to transition away from their mascot’s name and iconography.

“It’s been ‘The Braves’ for the last 40 years, as far as I know,” he said. Like most people whom PIX11 News encountered for this story, Reid seemed to accept the mandated change, reluctantly.

“It’s expensive,” he said. “It’s a lot of equipment that’s gonna have to be tossed. But what are you going to do?”

Syosset Central School District Public Information Officer Philomena Hefferon, said in a statement, “We have been closely following the actions of the Board of Regents, and we are working to establish the best steps forward.”

In the New York City metro area, the schools whose mascots are earmarked for change are:

  • Amityville (Suffolk County)
  • Brentwood (Suffolk County)
  • East Islip (Suffolk County)
  • Liberty (Sullivan County)
  • Mahopac (Putnam County)
  • Manhasset (Nassau County)
  • Sewanhaka (Nassau County)
  • Syosset (Nassau County)
  • Wantaugh (Nassau County)
  • Wappingers (Putnam County)
  • Wyandanch (Suffolk County)

The National Congress of American Indians, a Native American activist organization, has called for years for those schools to change their mascot names.

The new Board of Regents ruling does allow for at least one significant exception: school districts that receive approval from a Native American tribe recognized by the state to keep a Native American mascot or iconography may do so.