A high school in Vermont has ignited controversy by empaneling a 40-member committee to explore the idea of eliminating the school’s 60-year-old Rebel mascot.
The committee, which will meet at South Burlington High School in South Burlington, Vermont, will make suggestions on what team name and mascot should replace the Confederate-theme of its original name. Estimates indicate that it could cost up to $50,000 to eliminate the Rebel name.
The original name was chosen in 1961, four years after construction of the high school, by city fathers steeped in the local history that South Burlington separated itself from the town of Burlington back in 1865. When the team name was suggested, “no one batted an eyelash,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
These days, a Confederate rebel is not as innocuous. Many parents and local community leaders became upset about the team name two years ago when a local newspaper dug up decades-old photos of students posing with Confederate flags on the football field, and that is when talk of dumping the Rebel name began.
However, not everyone is upset by the 60-year-old team name.
“I don’t think constantly caving in to political correctness is appropriate in this day and age,” Linus Leavens, a 1972 South Burlington graduate, told the Journal. “I think a lot of America feels that way; there was an election recently that showed that.”
Another resident noted that the name Rebel could equally refer to figures such as Muhammad Ali, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., or Rosa Parks.
A large group of South Burlington graduates and local members of the community created a Facebook page entitled Rebel Alliance to work to overturn the school board’s decision to dump the team name.
The team name has also been used tangentially in an effort to urge local voters to deny a higher school budget. According to the paper, signs dotted the landscape reading, “Be a Rebel. Vote No” on the school budget-hike proposal.
Still, the school has taken steps to draw back from its Confederate Colonel mascot by slowly eliminating the image from the gym floor, uniforms, and ceasing its use in programs and other materials.
In any case, it appears that some students tire of adults fighting over the issue. At a recent school board meeting, senior Ryan Croxford said he doesn’t care what the team is named and criticized people for “fighting over this ridiculous stuff.” He added that the fighting had become “really petty at this point.”
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at email@example.com.