Hundreds protest over Lancaster mascot change

LANCASTER, N.Y. (WIVB) – The move to change the Lancaster School District’s mascot isn’t sitting well with everyone. Hundreds of alumni and students showed up outside the high school Thursday morning to protest.

Hundreds of people chanted “Let’s go Redskins” while marching off the high school’s property.  Police were on the scene to make sure everyone was safe.

The high school was reportedly in “Shelter in Place” mode, stopping anyone from entering the building for a part of the morning. A  Lancaster student’s family told News 4 the protestors will not be punished.

Advocates for the “Redskins” name are saying they want the nickname back. However, others are saying they want to come together as a community and leave a legacy of their own.

One family told News 4 they wish students had a voice in the debate, before the decision was made.

A student said, “It’s offensive, but it’s offensive to lose our own name. How would you feel if someone took your name away?”

The Lancaster Board of Education passed a unanimous vote Monday night to dismiss its mascot, the Redskin, which has over the past few months bubbled over into a debate between some who live in the town and people who view the name as offensive. The district had the mascot for more than 60 years.

A high school senior said their senior activities are being impacted by the mascot change. “It’s all being clouded because of the controversy and no one is taking the time to look at what makes the school special, and it’s the students and what we do. We want people to start going back to appreciating that, and taking note of all the good things happening here.”

“We wish it wasn’t hurtful and we wish that we could keep it, but we know that’s not the case. We have to take it in a positive note and we’re going to start leaving a legacy of our own,” said a high school senior.

The school district released a statement about the protests, noting that only 10 percent of the student body was represented at the protest.

“Today and throughout this process, we will find teachable moments in the way in which our students, our faculty, our staff, and our community conduct themselves.” – Superintendent Michael Vallely.

“We recognize the students’ constitutional right to free speech and assembly,” said Superintendent of Schools, Michael J. Vallely, Ph.D., in a statement. “While at the same time the students are aware that we have a Code of Conduct that articulates expectations for attendance. Many of the original protesters entered school before their first period classes, while those who chose to continue their rally will be treated with the same consequences as any other Code of Conduct attendance policy violation.”

The superintendent added, “We realize that traditions are sometimes hard to leave behind, but we do need to rethink traditions when they have become hurtful and perceived as disrespectful of others, even unintentionally. Today and throughout this process, we will find teachable moments in the way in which our students, our faculty, our staff, and our community conduct themselves.”

Many Native Americans have recently spoken out against the name, and despite some calls to keep the name due to its history and nostalgia, Lancaster will no longer be known as the Redskins.

Before dismissing its mascot, some area schools cancelled upcoming preseason games with the Redskins based on the controversy.

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