Mahopac school officials call for funding to help pay to remove Native American mascots

The Board of Regents voted in favor of banning all Native American school mascots last week.

News 12 Staff

Apr 28, 2023, 4:30 PM

Updated 387 days ago

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Mahopac school officials are calling for funding to help pay for the removal of Native American mascot symbols throughout the district.
No financial aid is being provided at this time to help schools make the transition.
At a news conference Friday at Mahopac High School, district administrators and lawmakers promoted newly filed legislation. It would require the New York State Education Department to reimburse school districts for costs related to changing their Native American mascots.
The district has until spring 2025 to completely retire the Indians and all related imagery or it risks losing state aid.
The state Education Department said in an April 6 memo that financial aid would be available to redo fields, replace gym floors and change signs. State Assembly Member Matt Slater wants every dollar reimbursed.
"I want to know, what does that mean? They mean 'find a way to help with costs?' Really what they're talking about is building aid. We do know there's is an avenue there, but the question becomes 'What's going to qualify?'" Slater said.
District leaders said they have already begun the overhaul, as it is easy to take down signs and banners. But other changes will cost more.
Mahopac Schools Superintendent Christine Tona said the whole process is going to cost $500,000. She said that is tough with a finite budget.
"Students are always our focus, so when something like this unfunded mandate gets thrown at us, it causes us to pull things from other places," Tona said.
As for the social transition, students said that is going well. They said retiring the Indians is not the end of the world.
"We have been the Indians our whole life and that's who we feel we are, but at the end of the day, as all the people said here today, we really look at ourselves as Mahopac," said Mahopac High School junior DJ DeMatteo.
The state Education Department memo also said it has been trying to get schools to cancel these mascots for years before they finally ordered them to. Therefore, claims of sudden, unexpected costs could have been mitigated, if not avoided, with better planning.


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