HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — A 20-year debate over the Confederacy came to an end Thursday. The Hays Consolidated Independent School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously to retire the Hays High School Rebel mascot.
It’s part of the district’s efforts to cut ties with connections to the Confederacy, and it comes on the heels of larger changes nationwide. In Mississippi, state leaders voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag, and this week, the NFL announced the Washington team would retire the use of its nickname ‘Redskins‘ and logo.
With Hays CISD Board’s approval, it could take all of the fall semester to come up with a new mascot. At present, Hays CISD leaders said the focus is on back to school safety plans amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The school will begin to phase out the Rebel through the removal of images on the school’s website and around the school building.
What a new mascot could look like will depend on Hays High School’s students and staff. In a survey, district leaders asked students and staff how they felt about the Rebel. More than 50% of staff said they felt uncomfortable to some degree. For students who felt the same, it was about 40%, and 1 in 4 students expressed they were “very uncomfortable.”
Over the years, Hays CISD has made changes, with the first in 2000 when it removed the Confederate flag as the school’s official symbol and then banned the display of the flag at school events in 2012. Then, in 2015, following the Charleston, South Carolina, shooting in a historic black church, Hays CISD replaced Hays High School’s school’s fight song “Dixie” with “On Wisconsin,” the school’s original fight song.
Initially, district leaders believed they could rebrand the Rebel, but now they say a new mascot is a step in the right direction.
“This decision isn’t about the past it’s about moving forward,” Tim Savoy, the school district’s chief communication officer said. “We know better now how the connections to the Confederacy affect people. We know how hurtful those symbols can be to people. Looking ahead there just really isn’t a way that we believe we cannot justify keeping any of those symbols because we know now.”
Hays CISD said in a Thursday night statement that once a new mascot is decided, it will partner with a graphics design team and work with existing vendors to create a new logo and brand package.
Student-athletes will continue to play under the Rebel mascot, but district leaders said those who are uncomfortable do not have to sport the mascot and can cover it up.
The district says that due to the work involved and the timing, it’s possible the “Rebel” won’t be fully retired until the end of the 2020-21 school year.