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January 26, 2013

School mulls dropping 'Redskins' name

Cooperstown Central School students will soon be polled about whether the school should retain the nickname “Redskins,” which dates to the mid-1920s.

The students will take 10 minutes out of their class time to complete a survey about the nickname, which many Native Americans and others consider to be offensive. The National Football League’s Washington Redskins have faced similar criticism.

Dr. David Borgstom, the district board of education president, said students will take a survey, indicating their preferences for as many as three nicknames among nine offered to them. Keeping the current nickname will be an option, and space will be provided to a suggest a name that is not listed. The most popular choice will be used.

Borgtrom said the student council was called upon to help come up with the alternative names: Coyotes, Deer Slayers, Hawkeyes, Hawks, Hunters, Leatherstockings, Pioneers, Red Hawks and Wolves.

Borgstrom made the announcement to middle and high school students Thursday, following a leadership assembly.

“Why?” Borgstrom asked rhetorically. “Times are changing, and our culture is continuing to evolve. Some of you were witnesses of the inauguration of the second term of the first African-American president in our nation’s history. Locally, we have been through a lot in the past four years. We have put in a lot of effort to recognize change, diversity, cultural sensitivity and character.”

Borgstrom said students have come forward to relate specific conversations with people unfamiliar with the school. When the issue of the school mascot nickname came up, he said, the students said they felt uncomfortable and embarrassed.

Superintendent C.J. Hebert agreed that the district has made significant efforts to recognize cultural changes and diversity. 

“The name really does not coincide with our initiatives and all the work we have been doing with anti-bullying and Dignity for All Students, faculty development and programs such as ‘Habitudes,’” Hebert said. “It is kind of hard to have them side-by-side.”

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