Massapequa Superintendent William Brennan speaks during a Massapequa school board...

Massapequa Superintendent William Brennan speaks during a Massapequa school board meeting at Massapequa High School Thursday night. Credit: JOHNNY MILANO

The Massapequa school board agreed Thursday night to comply with the state's ban on team names, mascots and logos with Native American imagery, but resolved to challenge the order in court.

In a unanimous vote, board members moved ahead on complying with the ban just over a week before districts statewide had to commit to retiring such names, symbols and logos, or face penalties.

After meeting with legal counsel in a closed-door executive session, Board President Kerry Wachter read a resolution stating that the district would comply with state regulations while making it clear they want to retain the Chiefs mascot and logo.

"It should no way be seen as a waiver of the district’s right to challenge whether the use of the Chiefs name includes a prohibitive mascot," Wachter said of the resolution.

She said if the ban is eventually repealed by the state Department of Education, or stricken down in court, Massapequa would return to calling its teams the Chiefs and restore the logo and mascot.

In the meantime, the board plans to hold a community forum to consider establishing a new districtwide mascot.

In April, the state Board of Regents voted unanimously to ban Native American team names, logos and mascots at public schools. The state ordered districts to commit to retire their mascots and names by next Friday, or face the potential loss of state funding.

The order also applies to school districts with “any connection” to Native American tribes, including school districts like Connetquot and Half Hallow Hills, known as the Thunderbirds.

Massapequa district leaders had held off committing to the state-mandated change.

In an April statement responding to the ban order, the district accused the Board of Regents of "overextending its reach and removing our local control,” adding that the name Chiefs honors the town’s Native American history. 

Districts have until the end of the 2024-25 school year to either remove the imagery or file an extension after showing good cause. 

School districts refusing to comply could face withholding of state aid and the removal of school officers, such as elected board members, according to the Department of Education.

More than a dozen school districts on Long Island are affected by the ban. As of late last month, several had passed resolutions to change their names and logos.

The state has rejected appeals from school districts like Wantagh and Wyandanch, which sought to keep their team name as the Warriors, but were denied.

Amityville school officials previously phased out its Indian head logo and sought to keep their Warriors team name, but has not said if it would comply with the state’s order.

Before Thursday night's vote, the Massapequ school board played a video based on "Once a Chief, Always a Chief," a motto popular in the district and rooted in Native American heritage dating back to land acquired by a Sachem chief in 1658.

The mascot name is emblazoned on stone signs at Massapequa High School and a student mural on a neighboring bagel shop off campus.

— With Laura Albanese and Joie Tyrrell

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