FORT SMITH (KFSM)- The Southside High School principal said he's against getting rid of the school's fight song and Rebel mascot.
Principal Wayne Haver spoke with 5NEWS Wednesday (June 24), a day after a Fort Smith School Board committee voted unanimously to ban the song "Dixie" and mascot Johnny Reb in the next two years.
“I literally felt blindsided,” Haver said.
Haver has been the principal of Southside High School for 33 years.
“The Confederate flag and ‘Dixie’ and the Rebels and all that started in 1963, 1964,” he said.
According to Haver, the flag was banned on campus in 1990. Now, 25 years later there's a change the song and mascot will go too.
“I do not personally think it is needed,” Haver said. “Our kids see our fight song and our mascot like any other school sees their fight song and mascot. It is just something to rally around and to promote school spirit. They do not see it as a racist thing at all.”
Current and former students had mixed reactions to the committee's decision. Nancy Leonard went to Southside in 2011.
“I understand why people want to keep the mascot,” Leonard said. “It does represent tradition, the good old ways, but I think there are other better ways that you can do that.”
Emily Beaker will be a sophomore at Southside this year.
“I am in the band, and I really wanted to play ‘Dixie’, and I love the mascot,” Beaker said. “They would have to change the Dixie Belles and all of that stuff, so I do not think it is worth it to change everything”
The proposed plan will ban "Dixie" for the 2015-16 school year.
“You have almost a month and a half to come up with a fight song, and that is almost impossible to do,” Haver said.
Johnny Reb would have to go for the 2016-2017 school year.
“Every uniform; football, baseball, softball, soccer, both boys and girls basketball, wrestling, golf, tennis, things like game bags, golf club bags and even rain gear that our coaches use that have the Rebel logo on it,” Haver said.
Haver said the money to change all that would have to come from somewhere and could cost the school as much as a half-a-million dollars.
“It is going to come out of the taxpayers [money]," Haver said. “It is going to come out of the school district’s budget, and so that means the money that could be spent for other things: computers, electronics, other technology is going to go for changing over the logos. I was just tremendously disappointed.”
The school board will hold the final vote on July 27. The meeting will be open to the public.