Southwestern High School to keep Rebel name amid controversy

Southwestern High School to keep Rebel name amid controversy
The school voted against changing its name. (Source: CLEAR)

HANOVER, Ind. (WAVE) - Southwestern High School students will remain Rebels.

The school has been under pressure for months from the community to break away from the name many call racist.

The school has argued multiple times its name isn’t associated with a confederate rebel.

Superintendent Jeff Bates released the following statement: "According to local historians, the name Southwestern was chosen as a result of forced consolidation Saluda and Hanover schools in 1960. Since the two schools were located in the Southwestern region of Jefferson County, the school system was officially named the Southwestern Jefferson County School Corporation.

While that still remains our official name, we are now more commonly known as Southwester. The nickname Rebels was coined by the student body of Southwestern High School in 1960 the student voted the name Rebels as its official name mostly as a rebellion against the forced consolidation.

Community pride has always run strong in this area, and the community did not like the fact that we were forced to combine schools. Throughout the history of Southwestern schools, many images and icons have been used as mascots or representations of the Rebels.

Unfortunately, at that time symbols and depictions of Confederate Civil War Soldiers and the Confederate battle flag had been used for these purposes. While these depictions may have at some point in history been accepted as okay, that is no longer the case.

In recent years, the current Southwestern administration has taken the initiative to remove these icons from being associated with the school system. While we can not change the past, we can assure that the symbols which many consider racists have no place in our schools. Our administration has heard from those with different voices regarding the push to change the name Rebels, both those in favor and those that are not.

In a democratic society, those stakeholders who have the right to govern whether directly or indirectly have a say in the decision that is made. Others have the right to an opinion, and the right to express that opinion, but have no say in the decision.

In this case, those who have a right to govern are the students, parents, employees, alumni, and any individuals that either lived in our district or choose to send their children to our schools.

The above-mentioned groups that have the right to govern, a significant number of respondents which is 81.5 percent of 1,174, either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement “Southwestern should keep the name Rebels,” 11.7 percent strongly disagree or disagree.

Other key finds from data collected indicated that 74.4 percent would not support changing the name to something else. 89.4 percent felt that Southwestern schools are welcoming to everyone regardless of race, and 18 percent associated the Rebel word with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Our administration has also received numerous other communications either by emails or phone calls representing both sides of the issue with the overwhelming majority in favor of keeping the Rebels name, and school colors.

Because of the aforementioned information, it is the intent of Southwestern Jefferson County School Corporation to remain the Southwestern Rebels and put an end to the discussion of this issue."

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