The Anaheim School Board met Monday afternoon to decide whether to remove Savanna High’s “Johnny Rebel” mascot from school grounds due to its confederate history.
The mascot was selected by the student body during the civil-rights movement.
According to Southern California Public Radio (SCPR), “A group of mostly African-American students from Savanna High School, along with parents and community members, approached the Board of Trustees for Anaheim Union High School District in October to ask that the school’s Rebel mascot be replaced.”
According to enrollment data from the Golden State, 74 percent of students at Savanna were Latino, 3 percent were African-American, and another 13 percent were Asian, Filipino or mixed race during the 2016 school year.
Johnny Rebel has been the secondary school’s mascot since 1964.
“People are very tied to their high schools and the mascot is a big deal,” district spokeswoman Pat Karlak told SCPR.
This would not be the first confederate symbol the school would remove.
SCPR notes that “In 2015, the district board of trustees voted to demolish a statue of a Confederate soldier that had long stood in Savanna High School’s quad.”
Anaheim district Superintendent Michael Matsuda said in a statement:
Since Savanna is a California Democracy School, this issue will test the staff and students as to whether there can be civil discourse about a controversial, but relevant national topic which affects their lives. I believe this could be a teachable moment for the entire country to see how students from a public school can demonstrate how to have a civil and respectful discussion, based on evidence, regardless of opinions.
The Orange County Register compiled a list of responses from Savanna High School alumnus regarding the Rebel mascot.
Sandra Roach Lim: I am ashamed to say I voted for the Rebel mascot. After all, we were named Savanna so why not? Well, life and the civil rights movement showed me this was a very poor choice. I wish I had not voted for the Rebel mascot and the racism it stands for. I hope the mascot is changed and I hope students today realize how offensive this symbol is.
Kim Switzer: I was one of the original high school student members that were chosen to pick a mascot for the newly formed High School in Anaheim, Savanna High in 1961. Anaheim High School was the Colonists, Western High School was the Pioneers, Magnolia High School (built the same year as Savanna) became the Sentinels and we decided in keeping with the other schools’ mascots that “Savanna Rebels” seem like a good fit and it sounded right when you said it out loud.
Believe me, there certainly was no thought of the Confederacy and slavery or any other oppressive thoughts regarding the choice of a Rebel as the mascot. There is 55 years of pride and history at the school known as the Savanna Rebels that some small group of individuals is trying to make the rest of the the attendees of the school for 55 years feel like they were celebrating something wrong by being a “Rebel.” What a sad case for the history books if the name of the mascot or symbol of the mascot is changed because a few seem to be offended.
Fiery, and violent, debates have ensued over the fate of the nation’s Confederate monuments. Additionally, the cost of removing Confederate monuments has, so far, cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
A Fox News poll in August showed that 62 percent of Americans believe that Confederate monuments should remain as historic symbols, while 27 percent believe they should be removed.