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South High now accepting suggestions to replace Rebel mascot

South High has made it official: It is now accepting suggestions from the community to replace its Rebel mascot, a Confederate icon.

Principal Connie Grumling is asking that the community send ideas along with a rationale in an email to southhighmascot@kernhigh.org.

A committee formed of students, staff, alumni and parents will be reviewing the ideas and choosing one of them, according to Kern High School District spokeswoman Erin Briscoe. Their first meeting will be next Tuesday. The committee doesn’t need board approval to change a mascot.

“The committee is excited about listening to the community and moving forward with the mascot change,” said Grumling, an alumna of the campus.

She said the committee wants to “select a mascot that will continue uniting the school.”

When South High opened in 1957, it was represented by not only the Rebel mascot but Confederate iconography. Confederate flags were waved on campus, the fight song “Dixie” was played at football games, the school’s yearbook was named after the Merrimac. Blue and gray, the colors of the confederacy, are still the school’s colors.

The efforts to change that Confederate iconography have come often during periods of upheaval in the country. South High students protested the flag in the late 1960s, and the Confederate flag and “Dixie” were removed as traditions from South High. But the colors and mascot and other Confederate iconography remained.

This latest episode is also product of recent upheaval — this time from the George Floyd protests over the summer. The protests called attention to Confederate imagery across the country. South High is one of the few remaining schools west of the Mississippi to have a Confederate icon as its mascot, and a petition circulated over the summer calling on the school to change it.

Nick Belardes, a writer and graduate of the class of 1986, is researching the untold history of the neighborhood surrounding South High for a forthcoming article. He said that even the name “South High” was less about where the high school was located and more about glorifying the Confederacy.

He said renaming the mascot is a “tiny step in the right direction.”

But he points to the streets surrounding the high school that are also named after Confederate history or the school down the street named Plantation Elementary and asks, “Is it enough?”