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Decision No. 13,963

Appeal of ROBERT EURICH from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Port Jervis regarding the use of a team name, logo and mascot.

Decision No. 13,963

(June 16, 1998)

Cuddeback & Onofry, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Robert A. Onofry, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner Robert Eurich, a resident of the Port Jervis City School District ("petitioner"), challenges the use by the district of the name "Red Raiders" for its sports teams, and a school logo and mascot which allegedly depict negative stereotypes of American Indians. Petitioner contends that the use of such names and symbols discriminates against American Indians, and that the refusal of respondent board of education ("respondent") to change the name, logo and mascot is negligent and an abuse of discretion. The appeal must be dismissed.

As a threshold matter, the petition fails because petitioner has no standing to allege discrimination against American Indians. An individual may not maintain an appeal under Education Law "310 unless aggrieved in the sense that he or she has suffered personal damage or injury to his or her civil, personal or property rights (Appeal of Todd, 37 Ed Dept Rep 419; Appeal of Folsom, 37 id. 343). The gravamen of petitioner's claim is that the civil rights of American Indians are being violated by respondent's stereotypical depictions of them through the use of a team name and logo. However, petitioner has not demonstrated how the use of these symbols injures his civil rights. Indeed, petitioner makes no allegation that he is an American Indian who is discriminated against by respondent's actions. Nor does petitioner allege that he is the parent of an American Indian student attending school in the district who is being subjected to a hostile environment as a result of respondent's actions. Rather, in an exhibit to petitioner's reply, he concedes that he is an "activist" who is of European ancestry. Thus, petitioner cannot show how respondent's alleged discrimination against American Indians violates his civil rights. I am therefore constrained to dismiss the petition for lack of standing.

However, I recognize the seriousness of the issues petitioner raises, and that other districts statewide engage in similar practices. I have therefore directed staff to review the matter.