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Lancaster schools made right move, now it’s time to get beyond divisive issue

Let’s congratulate the Lancaster School District for dropping a nickname and mascot that while always disparaging had evolved into a racial slur.

Now, leave the controversy behind and move on.

Those vehemently opposed to the change must take the high road and drop any effort to retaliate by voting against the district’s budget and capital projects in May.

Killing the budget on the basis of losing a long fight to continue tying a proud school district to a word that many view as odious and insulting would be absurd and harmful to students.

It’s 2015. The nickname “Redskins” had to be retired, just as it already had been in many other high schools and colleges. Times change. Much that was acceptable 70 years ago when the Redskins mascot was adopted in Lancaster is no longer. The district, which has nearly 6,000 students, was only one of three remaining in New York State still using the Redskins nickname.

Those opposed to change argue that Native Americans are not sensitive to the issue. And, yes, a few Native Americans did speak out against changing the Redskins tradition. Others spoke just as passionately about how harmful they found it, wanting people to know that they are more than the color of their skin.

A threatened boycott by three schools tipped the balance of the conversation. Akron, Lake Shore and Niagara Wheatfield’s lacrosse teams chose not to participate in scheduled games against Lancaster. Good for them.

These are schools with a significant Native American population, unlike the Lancaster district’s 0.2 percentage.

This hot-button issue was a local version of the debate over the NFL’s Washington Redskins, but was even more emotional because it involved public schools, not just a business.

The controversy took over the conversation in the district, overshadowing discussion of curriculum, test scores or Common Core Learning Standards.

It seemed each day brought a new event, demonstration, billboard or protest, well documented by News staff reporters Karen Robinson and Barbara O’Brien.

The seven-member School Board came under withering criticism for its decision, including insults and threats to unseat them, along with rejecting the district’s budget and capital projects.

The acrimony and sometimes embarrassingly childlike behavior came largely from adults, often alumni or parents of athletes, who felt that “tradition” required keeping as a nickname what is now generally recognized as a slur.

Meanwhile, the district had already quietly begun phasing out the name by not purchasing school uniforms with the moniker, although it allowed students to do so on their own. The new football scoreboard showed no signs of Redskins, and last fall, for the first time, no Redskins mascot appeared at sporting events.

Those who fought to keep the name had to see the writing on the wall. Times were already changing. They should put their energy into efforts that truly will move the district forward, while the board looks toward the student body for a plan to respectfully retire the mascot and find a new one.

The district’s schools and students are not defined by a nickname, but by the quality of education provided. Let’s move on.