Aug. 31—The Sidney Central School needs a new nickname.
In 2001, then-state Education Department Commissioner Richard Mills sent a memo to school districts requiring them to discontinue the use of Native American mascots. In June 2022, the state Supreme Court in Albany County ruled in favor of the Education Department and against the Cambridge Central School District, which wanted to keep Indians as its mascot. In November, the state Education Department issued a letter to all school districts to make sure their mascots, team names and logos are non-discriminatory. Districts had until the end of June to commit to stop using them.
Sidney found out from the state Education Department's Mascot Advisory Group on April 27 it would need to change its Warriors nickname, Sidney Superintendent Eben Bullock said. "There were some questions as to why some schools were allowed to keep their Warriors nicknames and others weren't," he said. "Walton and Chenango Valley can stay because they have never been associated with indigenous peoples. Sidney, however, was very clearly associated with Native Americans."
Sidney's logos used a picture of a Native American in a feather headdress with "Sidney" above and "Warriors" below it, and one of a dreamcatcher with an "S" on it. According to information on the district's website, the district removed the Warrior Head from the center of the gymnasium floor and replaced it with an S in 2004. The district updated its branding guide in 2017-18 and did away with the two logos. The colors of maroon, white and gray will stay, he said.
This year's graduating class was the last one referred to as Warriors, Bullock said. Faculty and staff will not be permitted to wear clothing that says Warriors this school year, and in sports competitions the teams will just be referred to as Sidney. He said the alumni association has also removed the logo from its stationery.
Students and community members will be tasked with suggesting, then voting on the new nickname this fall, Bullock said. Then they will come up with a mascot and logo based on the new nickname.
"People have given me suggestions in passing," Bullock said. "I don't want to say what I've heard. I don't want to skew the vote. I'm not going to pick. Everybody will have a voice."
Students returning to school will be able to suggest the new nickname first, followed by the community. He said the student council will then narrow the suggestions to the top 10, then the top three, and the students will vote on the winner. It is his hope to have the new nickname in place by November, so a new logo can be worked on in the spring.
"They'll be able to create a new legacy," he said.
The state has given schools until June 2025 to remove all prohibited logos, names and mascots, except on old trophies, from the school property. Bullock said it's "amazing" the number of places the word can be seen at the schools, including the endzone of the school's turf football field. It will have to be painted over as is done at NFL stadiums.
Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7221.