A Texas principal announced Thursday that the high school band can no longer play “Dixie,” the Confederate era song later popularized in the post-Civil War South, because of “safety” concerns.
Midland Independent School District Superintendent Orlando Riddick confirmed the decision. He said it was made by Stan VanHoozer, Robert E. Lee High School principal. VanHoozer told KOSA he and the school district did not want to take any chances with the safety of band member students amid the “national debate” surrounding Confederate statues and monuments.
“It came up partly because of those discussions because of what’s going on nationally,” stated the principal, alluding to the recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since then, Confederate iconography from symbols to statesmen came under attack across the United States.
“We also want our kids to be safe when they travel out of town and playing this in other areas,” he added. “We have a lot of traditions here at Lee but the name on our building or the song we play really does not identify who we really are inside the building and the good things that go on around here.”
Riddick told the Midland Reporter-Telegram that VanHoozer spoke with the school’s band director and his office about acting in the the best interest of the students, ultimately deciding to pull “Dixie” the school’s fight song. The principal framed excising the tune as a temporary suspension, noting “the decision is to halt the playing of it for the time being.”
Midland ISD also happened to sideline “Dixie” one day after an online petition circulated over social media. Breitbart Texas reported it called for school district officials to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School. However, school administrators maintain they have no plans to change the school’s name.
Presently, only a few bars of the once former Civil War anthem remain folded into the high school’s fight song “On, On Rebels,” which the Lee Mighty Rebel Band plays at football games and other school events. VanHoozer insisted: “Our official school song will not be changing.” Riddick, though, told the Midland newspaper a new fight song will be selected.
In 1991, the Midland ISD high school agreed to use a variation of “Dixie” for its fight song as part of a compromise resolution that included dropping the use of the Confederate flag in schools after a black parent complained to district officials over the school year book name — The Confederate. She wanted all references to the Confederacy removed from school events, clubs, and instructional materials.
The axing of “Dixie” stirred much emotion within the Midland ISD community. Many did not agree with the high school’s decision to suspend the use of the song, including a Lee High senior who told KOSA: “It’s our history and I think that it should stay the same because history is history and, that’s that. It’s not like we’re hurting anyone by playing a song.”
By Thursday night, more than 925 posted their thoughts about the situation on a KOSA Facebook thread. One man questioned if they were going to “get rid of the Dixie dolls” next, referring to Lee High School’s girl dance team. A woman asked if the “Rebel mascot” would also fall to the left-wing narrative.
Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.