Orange County

Anaheim High School Students Vote on Future of Confederate Mascot

"Keeping a symbol that leads back to when blacks were discriminated should not be representing our school."

Students at an Anaheim high school held a forum Wednesday to discuss the future of the school's mascot, a Confederate soldier.

Johnny Rebel has been the mascot at Savanna High School since 1964, but students are now questioning whether or not that icon of the Civil War is appropriate today. On Wednesday, students voted on whether to keep, rebrand or replace the mascot altogether.

"Keeping a symbol that leads back to when blacks were discriminated should not be representing our school," said Joseph Jackson as he stood in front of 600 peers. "Changing (the mascot) doesn't mean it's being erased from history; it means we need something more appropriate that we can take pride in."

Jackson was echoing what many on the campus believe: that the mascot is inappropriate at a public high school that embraces diversity and where 65 percent of students are Hispanic, 7 percent Asian and about 3 percent African-American.

But not all students were in agreement. Senior Alma Valenzuela drew applause as she argued that if Johnny Rebel should be "erased" as a school symbol, so should the "Colonists," "Sentinels," "Saxons" and even John F. Kennedy.

School board members say the change could be costly. "One is to figure out how important this is for the community, how important this is for the students," said Anaheim Union High School District board member Al Jabbar, "but at the end of the day, it's about money, too."

At Wednesday's forum, 56 percent of the campus voted to rebrand the mascot, 26 percent voted to keep Johnny Rebel and 18 percent voted to replace the mascot completely.

The vote serves as a recommendation to the school board, which will meet Nov. 6 and have the final say on any changes.

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