The Indian, a symbol for generations of John Jay athletes, will no longer be the high school mascot, the school board declared Thursday.
Reacting to a recommendation by School Superintendent Andrew Selesnick, the board’s seven members agreed, without formally voting, that the venerable iconography was unnecessarily hurtful to Native Americans and should be replaced.
The board’s unanimous action was swift and not surprising, coming only weeks after Trustee Terrence Cheng raised the issue at a Sept. 19 meeting. At that time, he called the Indian “a very divisive symbol” and most of his fellow trustees largely agreed.
They stopped short of endorsing for a ban on the mascot, however, and called on Selesnick instead to develop a process for considering such an action.
A month later, Selesnick recommended moving ahead with the ban, noting the expressed dismay on many fronts, including Native-American organizations, with continued used of such symbolism.
On Thursday, the board members, in individual comments, agreed. While no formal vote was taken, the board’s universal agreement effectively sealed the mascot’s fate.
Discussion of a replacement logo will begin at the board’s next meeting, Nov. 21. In response to a question, Selesnick said after the meeting that the school’s teams will retain the “Indians” nickname and associated icons until the 2020-21 academic year.
Extensive community dialogue had accompanied occasional efforts in the past, one as far back as 30 years ago, to resolve this emotionally charged issue, Selesnick noted in opening the trustees’ discussion. Accordingly, he urged the board to move forward without renewed input from residents in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District.
Still, the superintendent said he had heard “multiple perspectives” late last month when he hosted a community meeting attended by more than 70 people.
About a dozen members of the public attended the Thursday night meeting, and while none spoke during the mascot discussion most left immediately after it.