Image Credit: Maryville Athletics
Published February 11, 2021
Maryville City Schools sent out a diversity survey to parents and families of the school district to see if they supported a petition to change the Rebels mascot. Results of the survey found there was support for keeping the mascot, from students and parents.
School Board Director, Mike Winstead, presented the results at a school board meeting on Friday and said that schools leaders “are committed to meaningful, ongoing work and overall school improvement related to equity and diversity and inclusiveness.”
The results showed that 70% of parents and staff were in favor of keeping the name, along with 79% of current junior and senior students. While recent graduates are in favor of a name change, 59% of alumni were found to support keeping the Rebel name and mascot. When it came to outside survey takers, community members, and parents of former students, only 35.4% showed their support in keeping the current mascot.
The survey was created by a Diversity Task Force that was designed to see where Maryville city schools might need more diversity. The school board is the only one in charge of changing the name, but the task force was designed to gather information from the community and come up with plans of action.
The statement found on the Maryville City Schools Website says, “We welcome open communication and seek ways to improve our work toward the creation of inclusive, safe, and supportive systems for those who are marginalized while cultivating a heightened awareness of perspective and mutual respect.”
The district said the task force “goals are inclusive and refrain from reducing diversity to a focus only on color or race.”
Over the summer, community members and alumni organized the petition that called for the school board to change the Rebel name and mascot.
Nick Black, chairman of the school board, said “Right now we’re just looking for a dialogue. We’re not for a name and we’re not against a name. The name is what it is until it’s changed.”
Black said he understands the ties to the confederacy that came with the Rebel nickname. In 1999, the school system cut ties to the confederate flag and a few years later completely banned it from campus.
“It’s not something that I’m proud of, but you know the fact that it happened, I don’t shy away from that.” Black said, “You know, the confederate symbology was there.”
Jonathan Hagan, a Maryville parent who attended protests in favor of the nickname, said he thinks the mascot can remain the same while understanding the history.
Hagan said, “We understand here in the south that back years ago there was a lot of hatred here. There was a lot of racism that went on around the south. But I believe we as a society are better than that. And I believe it’s important to keep good traditions and to keep good heritage alive and to throw away the bad.”
The board of education will be looking at the data from the survey to come up with needed plans of action to improve diversity at Maryville Schools. On February 5, they adopted a policy that would increase diversity amongst school staff.