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New Wrinkle Possible In Red Raider Controversy

A new wrinkle may have been introduced in the controversy over the Jamestown High School Red Raider nickname.

State Sen. Pete Harkham, D-South Salem, has introduced legislation (S.8708) in the state Senate that would amend the state Education Law to exclude schools with race-based mascots from receive state aid to schools. Companion legislation has yet to be introduced in the state Assembly.

The bill would define a race-based mascot as any person, animal or object used to represent a school district derived from a specific race or ethnicity or based on certain characteristics of a specific race or ethnicity. Schools would be given three years to remove any race-based mascots or would lose state aid. Aid would be withheld until the district disassociated completely with the offending mascot.

“Currently, there are schools in New York State which feature race-based mascots,” Harkham wrote in his legislative justification.

“Adapting this legislation would provide schools three years to remove any race-based mascots or they lose state funding. This timeframe will allow school districts time to budget these changes. As we look into the future of New York state it is vital that we discontinue these racial and insensitive practices.”

If approved, the bill would have repercussions for Jamestown High School, which has seen its “Red Raider” nickname come under fire in recent weeks. The movement to change the name — which started with an online petition started by Autumn Echo of the Jamestown Justice Coalition that has, as of press time, received nearly 850 signatures — kickstarted a counter-effort, started by 1993 graduate Melissa Paterniti, to keep the name the same which has received nearly 1,200 signatures.

Rickey L. Armstrong Sr., president of the Seneca Nation of Indians, voiced support for the movement in a statement sent to The Post-Journal on June 18, noting that the “time for change has long since arrived, and the call should be heeded.”

Dr. Kevin Whitaker, the new Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, said in The Post-Journal on Thursday that he hopes to begin a conversation amongst community members on the nickname and mascot.

“It has to be a conversation,” Whitaker said. “It can’t be some sort of dictate from on high.”

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