Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools to drop Civil War Rebel mascot

Posted at 12:10 PM, Aug 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-17 16:58:16-04

Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools is changing its mascot. 

The district announced Thursday that South High School will move away from the Civil War Rebel Icon, "in light of the changing perception."

The district is working on identifying "a new figure to represent the South High Rebels."

In a statement, the district said:

When the decision was made to initially identify the South High Rebels using the Civil War Rebel Icon as their mascot, it was done so as a symbol of the history of this country. Since that time, the Rebel Mascot has taken on a negative connotation and as a district, we do not feel it is in the best interest of the community and our students to perpetuate this statement. 

The district plans to seek input from students, staff and the community to identify a new mascot. 

In the meantime, the district will remove the Rebel mascot from the school's property and attire. 

In a news conference Thursday, Superintendent Steve Thompson said that, while there's always been a conversation about the meaning behind the mascot, the recent events in Charlottesville have brought the issue to the forefront. 

Mark Gerald, a 1987 graduate of Willoughby South High School, is angry with the district's decision to remove the Rebel as the school's mascot.

Gerald told News 5 he thinks taxpayers should have had a chance to vote on the issue.

"They're supposed to be educators, they're turning this into politics. There's no room for politics in school," said Gerald.

Gerald's son, A.J., just started his sophomore year at South, but his days there are numbered. His dad plans to pull him out of the school in protest of the school board's decision.

"He's fine with that, would you believe it? He's fine with it. He's the one that asked me about it," said Gerald.

While the school district announced it's pulling the mascot in light of changing perception, Gerald said what's happening across the country should have no impact here.

"This is Willoughby, Ohio, we have nothing to do with that. It's nothing but school spirit. There's no racism in the school," said Gerald.

Gerald said his son will either go to Willoughby North or be homeschooled.

In 1989, the district removed the Confederate Flag from South's mascot.

"We've always called this the rebel flag. We call this the South Rebel flag. I think it should be left alone. It's a last little piece of history," said Gerald.

The district is holding a news conference at 3 p.m. Thursday. News 5 will live stream.