At times chanting "Let's go Redskins!" the students gathered at the start of school and walked into the village of Lancaster before returning to campus. Among their signs were ones saying "School board speak with forked tongue" and "Once a Redskin, always a Redskin."
The protest followed a vote earlier this week by the Lancaster Central School Board to retire the nickname after more than 60 years. The suburban Buffalo district had been phasing it out the past few years but was under increasing pressure to do away with it altogether. Monday's special session of the board was called after three neighbouring districts with Native American students announced they would boycott lacrosse games against Lancaster.
The protesters said students had never used the term Redskins in a derogatory way and considered the name, and logo of a Native American man's face, a source of school pride.
Superintendent Michael Vallely said about 200 high school students and 100 from the middle school participated in Thursday's walkout. The district has nearly 2,000 students.
"We realize that traditions are sometimes hard to leave behind," Vallely said in a statement, "but we do need to rethink traditions when they have become hurtful and perceived as disrespectful of others, even unintentionally."
The district said students would be involved in creating a new mascot and logo.