“On Wisconsin” replaced a Texas high school’s long-held”Dixie” fight song, a Southern favorite often associated with the Confederate South, but “Dixie” may come back when students vote on a new school spirit song.
On Friday night, “On Wisconsin” was the interim Hays High School fight song played at the football season opener in Buda, Texas. In late July, school district officials buckled under the pressure to drop “Dixie,” following the tragic Charleston church shooting that killed nine. Many Texas public schools jumped on a wave to shun symbols and dump historical figures that were connected to the Confederacy.
However, at last Thursday’s school board meeting, Hays Consolidated Independent School District (CISD) Superintendent Michael McKie softened on the administration’s stance to nix “Dixie” in its search for a new fight song, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The administrative change-of-heart followed district outreach into a student community that wanted their fight song back. They expressed that the song “Dixie” and their mascot name “Rebels” did not represent the values of the school because of ties to the Confederacy.
One key influence to bring back “Dixie” was high school football team senior offensive lineman Daniel Bice, who started a petition to reverse the school’s decision. It had more than 2,260 signatures late Friday evening.
The high school senior appealed to district administration in an email about the summertime decision to dump Dixie without any student input. He felt it was not fair to the student body who were affected but had no say in the matter.
Bice wrote, “We are taught at Hays High that our voice matters, that this is our school and our campus to be proud of. We work very hard to represent our school name, mascot and community. We are the ones who show the success of this school. It is our work ethic that you are dependent on to show high testing scores to the state. How can we continue to see that this is our school if we do not have a considered voice?”
This means that when students vote on a new fight song next year it can include “Dixie” as a contender.
“No song is excluded. We don’t even know what songs are going to be nominated. “We don’t even know what the criteria is, so I’m not going to speculate on anything,” McKie said Thursday. He added that the administration will guide, but won’t control, the student-driven process where the teens will choose that new fight song with criteria that will not be “racist or hateful or negative,” according to the Statesman.
McKie said the district was committed to find a new fight song by the end of January. “We understand the urgency in reference to a fight song,” he said.
School district officials explained the current choice of “On Wisconsin,” even if only temporary. It was the school’s original fight song.
Not everyone agrees that “Dixie” should return. One Hays High School teacher insisted that “Dixie” was associated with hate groups. He claimed it created a fear-filled environment for black students, the Statesman noted.
According to the district, “the symbols have never meant any type of support for slavery, racism, or hate. The people of Hays CISD are compassionate, intelligent, and generous. Those who defend the imagery that has been associated with the campus are defending the long-held connection and deference they have for the school. However, and equally as important, the imagery holds different meanings for individuals.”
District officials also pointed out that Hays CISD belongs to the people of the district and must respect and reflect the sentiments of all of its students and citizens.
In its Confederate-free quest, Hays CISD has reevaluated its traditions associated with the pre-Civil War South routinely over the years. Breitbart Texas reported that in 2000, Hays High School voted to phase out the use of the Confederate flag emblem off of school band uniforms. Three years ago, school district board members voted to ban the Confederate flag following a racial incident that included a “KKK” slur against a black teacher. At the time, the school’s fight song “Dixie” was not on the chopping block as there was far less opposition to the song than to the flag.
Regardless of what the future holds for “Dixie,” there are no plans to remove the Hays High School Rebel mascot. Hays CISD spokesman Tim Savoy told KVUE-TV (ABC) “you can be the Rebels without an association to the Confederacy.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.