The Syosset Central School District voted unanimously to retire its Braves mascot and name in accordance with a state order to ban Native American team names, mascots and imagery. NewsdayTV’s Steve Langford reports. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez; Syosset Central School District; File Footage; Photo Credit: Dawn McCormick

The Syosset Central School District voted unanimously Monday night to retire its Braves mascot and name in compliance with a state order by the Board of Regents to remove Native American mascots and imagery from public schools.

The state Education Department banned indigenous names, logos or mascots last month. The ban affects more than dozen districts on Long Island, which must adopt resolutions to retire names and mascots by June 30. Districts have until the 2024/25 school year to change their names and remove Native American imagery.

Syosset followed several other districts that have adopted resolutions to change names and logos. Syosset board members estimated making changes at Syosset High School’s football field end zone and scoreboard would cost about $70,000.

The Syosset school board did not comment on the resolution, except for technical changes and noting they would consult state legislators to seek grant funding to cover the expenses.

Board members said they would apply for state funding, noting the name change expenses qualifies for state aid for capital improvements.

The lone public speaker at Monday’s meeting, Melissa Forman of Woodbury, said it was time for the district to move on and retire the name and Braves mascot.

“The state did not issue this directive to control our local school districts … This stereotyping, affects academic and stereotyping by other Native American students and undermines their educational experiences,” she said. “The symbols and images teach non-Native American children it’s OK to perpetuate culturally abusive behavior … It is the board’s responsibility to maintain a climate of acceptance.”

School districts that do not comply with the state’s edict could face loss of state funding and removal of school officers, including elected school board members. The order affects 55 school districts throughout New York with Native American mascots. 

The state also did not allow any vestiges of names or logos, particularly from districts that had a tradition of using Native American imagery, district officials said. Some board members had sought to continue using the name “Brave” by dropping the “s,” but officials said that was too closely aligned with the previous name and mascot.

Monday night’s school board meeting was held with no debate compared to an April meeting where residents and board members were divided about following the state order or fighting to preserve the school’s name.

“We kind of knew there was a very small chance we’d keep the name,” School Board President Thomas Rotolo said during the April board meeting. “In an effort to fight for the community and give us every chance, we went through the rulings, but at this point, I don’t think there’s much more we can do. We don’t take this lightly. We understand the multigenerational attachment to this name, but at the same time, we’re moving forward to represent the community.”

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