Douglas S. Freeman High School will solicit input from students, families, alumni, and community members on the future of its “Rebels” nickname, the school’s principal announced today in an email message. The process will be about collecting experiences and opinions. A committee of community members, students, and staff will compile the responses, analyze feedback to identify themes, and create a report that will be a basis for community dialogue. While the process will be school-based, the Douglas Freeman administration will work closely with Henrico County Public Schools’ superintendent and School Board.
“While our traditions contribute to our strong school culture, this moment in our nation’s history demands that we ask if our symbols and language reflect our core values,” said John Marshall, Douglas Freeman principal. “In this spirit, hundreds of our students, alumni, families, and community members have written over the past few weeks expressing their view that now is the time to change Freeman’s mascot.”
The Rebels nickname is viewed by some, Marshall said, as a name for those “who use our talents to challenge the status quo and change the world.” Others view the nickname as archaic, and a “dividing and unwelcoming force for many students.
“There have been petitions and student-led calls for a mascot change, and just as many petitions and calls for keeping it. However, there has not been a public, school-led, formal examination of the topic until today.
“Douglas Freeman High School is a model in many ways,” said Marshall, “and this moment gives us another opportunity to lead. I am optimistic about our ability to have this conversation as a Freeman Family, and model how a community should have such a dialogue.”
While the Henrico County school retains its Rebels nickname, it has not used a visual mascot for many years, instead opting for an interlocking “DSF” logo.
The school, which opened in 1954, is named for Douglas Southall Freeman, a Richmond historian, author, and journalist. While Freeman won Pulitzer Prizes for his biographies of both Robert E. Lee and George Washington, the school’s nickname was likely inspired by his Confederate subjects.
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