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Virginia high school asks community to mull 'Rebels' nickname

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Posted at 4:10 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 16:10:54-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- School district officials in Henrico County are asking for help as they weigh the fate of Douglas S. Freeman High School's “Rebels” nickname.

In an email message Thursday, Douglas Freeman Principal John Marshall said "this moment in our nation’s history demands that we ask if our symbols and language reflect our core values.”

“In this spirit, hundreds of our students, alumni, families and community members have written over the past few weeks expressing their view that now is the time to change Freeman’s mascot," Marshall said.

As a result, the district is seeking input from students, families, alumni and the community about the nickname, which Marshall said some see as a name for those “who use our talents to challenge the status quo and change the world.” However, others feel it is an archaic, “dividing and unwelcoming force for many students,"
according to Marshall.

“There have been petitions and student-led calls for a mascot change, and just as many petitions and calls for keeping it," Marshall said. "However, there has not been a public, school-led, formal examination of the topic until today."

Officials said a committee of community members, students and staff will review the feedback and make a report "that will be a basis for community dialogue."

Additionally, the high school's administration will work closely with superintendent and school board.

The 66-year-old school has not used an actual mascot for "many years," officials noted, but an interlocking “DSF” logo.

Douglas Southall Freeman, a Richmond historian, author and journalist, won Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of both Robert E. Lee and George Washington.

But "the school’s nickname was likely inspired by his Confederate subjects," district officials noted.

“Douglas Freeman High School is a model in many ways, and this moment gives us another opportunity to lead," Marshall said. "I am optimistic about our ability to have this conversation as a Freeman Family, and model how a community should have such a dialogue."

Click here to send your feedback about the nickname to Henrico County Public Schools.