Douglas Freeman principal reaches out for feedback on school’s ‘Rebels’ nickname

Henrico County

HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — The principal for Douglas Freeman High School shared a message with families on Thursday in hopes that they would weigh in on the school’s “Rebels” name.

The mascot’s name was selected in 1954, the year the school opened, and was inspired by books on Confederate subjects written by the school’s namesake, Douglas S. Freeman. Principal John Marshall wrote that the school has worked to re-frame the meaning of the word over time.

“We tell our students — and I write in principal’s messages — that we aspire to be ‘rebels,’ who use our talents to challenge the status quo and change the world. That trail-blazing spirit is a core value of our school and an important skill to impart to our children,” the message says. “This is how I have viewed the word ‘rebel’ and why I’ve felt comfortable saying ‘Go Rebels!’ to close announcements and weekly messages home.”

In the wake of protests across the country and growing calls to remove Confederate statues and imagery from the state, Marshall notes that it’s time for a formal examination of the school’s nickname.

“I pledge to listen, reflect what I hear and, with a committee formed of community members, students and staff, use that input to make a determination about the future of our school’s ‘Rebels’ mascot,” Marshall wrote. “This decision will not be made behind closed doors or without community input, nor will it be a mechanism to avoid the hard conversations we need to have as a community. We will lean in to those conversations. It will also not be determined by a popular vote. We will listen to the community — as many voices as we possibly can — and choose the best course for our students.”

You can read the full message and learn how to provide feedback here.


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