Rich High School is changing its mascot of more than 30 years after complaints that it is racially insensitive.
The 142-student high school in northern Utah’s Rich County will phase out its Confederate Rebel mascot and by altering its gray fatigues for a classic royal blue uniform transform the school into the far more politically palatable Revolutionary Rebel.
The decision has been a long time coming, said principal Rick Larsen. Complaints about the symbol’s racist connotations had been made over the years and Larsen said they resurfaced during Rich School District’s August board meeting.
On the other side, Larsen said :“There are people here who feel really strongly about the Rebel name, so it’s been quite a divisive issue.”
The Confederate Rebel became the school’s mascot through a student vote more than 30 years ago following the consolidation of two high schools. Larsen said many believe the decision came from a love for the popular television show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” whose signature Dodge Charger touted the confederate flag on its roof.
The school board charged Larsen with finding alternatives for the mascot, so he asked the student body for suggestions.
Ander Rex, a junior, began researching why so many people connected with the rebel symbol and decided they resonated with being an outsider and fighting against a system of oppression.
His research led him straight to the minutemen of the Revolutionary War, who were among the first to fight the British.
“I realized we could keep the rebel in a way that was more patriotic,” he said. “For me, it was even better than the original rebels.”
In a school survey about its mascot, Larsen said about 80 percent of students agreed to keep the rebel name but change the symbol to represent Revolutionary soldiers.
Rex and other students presented their idea to the school board in October and, to Larsen’s surprise, the new symbol resonated with members and approved it. Rich thought the board would rather chose a completely different mascot to distance itself from any controversy.
The school is now in the process of choosing a new design, which will still include the school’s colors of royal blue, black, white, and silver. Students are submitting drawings to Larsen, which he will present to the school board for approval in the coming months.
The school will have to replace logos on its gym floor and a carpet tapestry in the school’s common area, which will cost about $3,500. Athletic uniforms with the Confederate Rebel will be phased out over the next few years.
There has been no backlash from students about changing the school’s mascot, Larsen said, who described students as being more understanding than many adults because they don’t want their school to be associated with racism.
“They immediately accepted the change and worked to find a solution that better represented who we are as a school,” he said. “They are great kids who are willing and accepting of change.”