NJ high school refuses to drop Confederate-inspired team name
HOWELL — Current and former students are calling for Howell High School to get rid of all traces of its Confederate-inspired mascot and "Rebels" team name but the district is refusing to back down.
The Monmouth County school, which is part of the Freehold Regional School District, in recent years has been scaling back the use of the former mascots, a cartoonish Confederate soldier with an oversized hat and handlebar mustache, replacing that image with an "H."
The petition demanding the name change comes as the nation's attention has once again been turned to matters of racism with hundreds of thousands of people marching and rallying in major cities and small towns across the country for the past two weeks following the Minneapolis police killing of an unarmed black man.
According to the Asbury Park Press, the high school adopted the Confederate-inspired theme, complete with the "Southern Rebels" team name and the "Dixie" fight song, when it opened in 1964, during the height of the civil rights movement era, as Southern Freehold Regional High School.
On Monday, the district acknowledged "concerns over the former image of Howell High School’s mascot."
"Howell High School’s team names will remain the Rebels, however, we will be working with our student body to hear their thoughts and design a new image for the school’s mascot in the near future," the statement said.
The mascot was not used on new uniforms and football field turf or the new basketball court. A monument donated by the class of 2006, which included the mascot, was taken down this year. But an electronic sign at the school entrance still reads "home of the Rebels."
Former student Meghan Marker created an online petition asking that both the name and the image be eliminated because it is "demeaning" and "out of touch."
"It undermines the struggles of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) and the blatant prejudice it stands to represent," Marker wrote.
"We also request all uses of 'rebel' and 'rebel yell' be disassociated with Howell High School, as those terms also are commonplace in confederate culture. The appalling history of the confederacy should never be glorified or displayed, especially in a public institution that prides themselves on providing educational opportunities for all. The very notion of this symbol existing for so long shows Freehold Regional High School District's (FRHSD) complacency on the matter," Marker wrote.
District spokeswoman Rebecca Policastro, when asked why the team name was not dropped, reiterated the district statement.
Another online petition seeks to keep the Rebel name.
"To change the mascot would be an attempt to erase history and nobody wants that," organizer Laura B. wrote.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the 2,100 students at Howell High School are mostly white, with a 3% African American enrollment.
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