MONROE – Union County Public Schools will review administrative guidelines at its July 7 school board meeting that will outline the process for requesting a nickname or mascot change.
This comes as momentum builds for Parkwood High School to change its Rebels nickname, which people associate with Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. An online petition to change the mascot secured 2,500 signatures after one day on Change.org.
“It is not only wrong, but totally unacceptable to ask an African American student to wear a jersey with a mascot on it that has ties to a government of oppression who fought to keep their ancestors in chains,” according to the petition. “It is time to move past this painful symbol, and no longer glorify it in our community.”
Supporters of the nickname filed an online petition of their own, which had more than 1,700 signatures during lunchtime July 1.
Melissa Merrell, who chairs the school board, said during the June 30 policy committee meeting that she has received a handful of complaints via email from the Parkwood cluster.
Superintendent Andrew Houlihan and school board member Kathy Heintel said they too had received complaints. School board member Candice Sturdivant said she hadn’t received feedback about Parkwood but she heard a complaint about Forest Hills and Piedmont school mascots in terms of racial discrimination.
The school board’s policy committee reviewed a draft of the proposed guidelines from general counsel Michele Morris. The guidelines include the following statement:
“All mascots, nicknames and descriptors, including symbols, banners, flags, pennants or similar identifiers used by a school sports team, extracurricular clubs, curricular clubs or organizations, shall respect cultural differences and values. The board prohibits the use of any race or ethnic group as a mascot or nickname.”
Those petitioning for a change will have to submit a form and demonstrate broad support for it. Once it clears the school-level review, it goes before a school board committee and then the whole board.
The Monroe chapter of the NAACP tried to change Parkwood’s nickname in 2009, but those efforts were unsuccessful.
A Union County Weekly story from that time said then-superintendent Ed Davis viewed changing the mascot as a school-based decision. The story notes that surveys during Davis’s tenure as principal at Parkwood from 1994 to 2000 showed a majority of students favored the Rebels nickname.
Since the death of George Floyd in May 2020, there has been growing support to remove symbols of the Confederacy, such as flags, monuments and names of public schools. .