It’s only been three weeks since the Lancaster School Board in upstate New York voted unanimously to retire its Native American moniker and mascot – the ‘Redskins.’
But a week before the vote, a candidate for the same school board agreed that Native Americans should “go back to the reservation.”
On March 16, the Lancaster School Board held a special meeting where it announced the immediate retirement of the school’s mascot. The high school there has been mired in controversy ever since two opposing schools refused to play Lancaster’s lacrosse team on account of its logo and moniker.
School board candidate Kelly Hughes Depczynski responded to a Facebook rant on March 9 where the writer, going only by the name of Lin, said Native American students who find the name offensive should, instead, get their education on the reservation rather than Lancaster.
“If this American Indian at Lancaster and his family are so ‘offended’ … maybe the school board can gently refer him to go back to the reservation for his education,” Lin wrote.
Lin also argued that Native Americans in Lancaster, New York who are offended by the school’s mascot shouldn’t have moved there to begin with.
“Maybe if ‘Redskins’ is too offensive they shouldn’t have moved to that district,” Lin wrote.
At the end of Lin’s rant, school board candidate Depczynski responded, “Thank you, Lin! My thoughts exactly!”
Depcyznski’s Facebook page is riddled with images of pro-Redskins banners and T-shirts. One shirt reads, “Change it Back!”
On Thursday, Depczynski wrote on her Facebook wall that on April 25 there will be a “family event” titled, “Once A Redskin Walk.” Pro-Redskins items will be on sale, she wrote. An hour later, Depczynski commented on her own post that “You can’t have too much Redskin gear…no such thing!!!”
The Lancaster school board disagrees with Depczynski, arguing the mascot and name perpetuates a divide in the community.
“The mascot is recognized as a symbol of ethnic stereotyping, and as a school district, Lancaster cannot continue practices which are offensive and hurtful to others,” the school board posted on its website.
Last month, Depczynski appeared on Fox News Insider in defense of the school’s mascot.
Tara Houska, an Ojibwe and tribal attorney based in Washington, D.C., sent ICTMN the screenshots of the rant as well as Depczynski’s response. Houska called Depcynski’s comment “indicative of her fitness for office.”
“Ms. Depczynski supports the removal of Native children from public schools to reservations; I wonder if the Native mascot she fights for will suffice as remembrance of actual Native peoples,” Houska wrote in an email. “It is deeply disturbing that someone who would deny Native American students access to an education in Lancaster is running for an office responsible for shaping policies that affect young minds.”
Lancaster residents will vote for school board candidates on May 19.