Kelly Hughes Depczynski was elected to the Lancaster Central School Board in upstate New York on May 19 several months after she prompted controversy on social media with her comments about Native Americans.
In early March, Depczynski responded to a Facebook rant where the writer, going only as “Lin,” said Native American students who find the Lancaster ‘Redskins’ mascot 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.
At the end of the rant, Depczynski responded, “Thank you, Lin! My thoughts exactly!”
On March 16, the Lancaster School Board held a special meeting where it announced the immediate retirement of the school’s mascot, arguing it perpetuated a divide in the community.
Before the mascot was dropped, the high school had been mired in controversy after two opposing schools refused to play Lancaster’s lacrosse team on account of its logo and moniker.
Depczynski, who is known as a vocal proponent of the team name, was accused of running on a platform solely to reinstate the mascot, which she denies. Depczynski argues her platform was about more transparency into Lancaster’s political process.
Tara Houska, an Ojibwe and tribal attorney based in Washington, D.C. who first discovered the correspondence between Lin and Depczynski, told ICTMN the recent election in Lancaster is indicative of the community’s sentiment there.
“While Lancaster students are actively engaged in choosing a new mascot, the Lancaster community elected a candidate who supports sending offended Native American students ‘back to the reservation,’” Houska wrote in an email.
“To the Native Americans who spoke out, to the nearby Native American lacrosse teams that refused to play Lancaster until the name was changed, to the students who deserve equal access to an education, the election speaks volumes about the majority’s values,” Houska wrote.