Fort Smith School Board Bans Southside High’s Rebel Mascot And Fight Song

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FORT SMITH (KFSM)- The Fort Smith School Board voted unanimously Monday (July 27) to ban Southside High School's mascot and fight song.

In a seven to zero vote, the fight song "Dixie" will be banned for the 2015-2016 school year.

"In the next few days we will be making a selection of a new fight song," said Fort Smith School District Superintendent Dr. Benny Gooden. "At least one fight song, and we may have others down the way."

The mascot, known as Johnny Reb, will be replaced for the 2016-2017 school year.

"The new mascot will be decided by a committee that consists of alumni, students, also some members of the business community," said Fort Smith School Board President Deanie Mehl. "This is not something the [school] board will decide."

Making changes to Southside High School uniforms will cost about $200,000, according to the school board.

"We do have funds set aside within the district," Mehl said. "It will not be part of our general operating fund."

About 200 people came to the meeting to voice their opinion.

"I think it was impressive, the amount of input the board received," Gooden said. "I think it is impressive, the number of people that came out."

The school board is facing a lawsuit over a committee meeting it held on June 23 when members voted to recommend changing Southside High School's mascot and fight song. Fort Smith attorney Joey McCutchen filed the lawsuit claiming the school board violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by holding a committee vote without notifying the public.

"The school board did not say one word about why they were for or against, and that is concerning, so I think we, the voters, need to come out," McCutchen said Monday. "We need to get a school board who will engage us in the process because that's what our government stands for."

McCutchen said he will go forward with the lawsuit. A judge agreed to hear the case on Wednesday, two days after the school board's decision. Mehl said the school board did not violate any portion of the Freedom of Information Act.

Others, like Melissa Woodall, were ecstatic about the board's decision to do away with "Dixie" and Johnny Reb.

"If you're from here, we know that most of us don't hold hate in our hearts, and we do not mean anything negative by the Southside symbols, but not everybody, everywhere understands that part of our community," Woodall said. "A different mascot would better represent our community."

23 comments

  • Leten Uno

    The first use of the crossed bars design was the 2nd national flag. Consisting of having a “Confederate flag” on a white background. William T Thompson said of his creation.

    As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause.… Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as the white mans flag.… As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism. As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematic of our cause… Such a flag…would soon take rank among the proudest ensigns of the nations, and be hailed by the civilized world as the white mans flag… As a national emblem, it is significant of our higher cause, the cause of a superior race, and a higher civilization contending against ignorance, infidelity, and barbarism.
    William T Thompson, May 4th 1863, “Daily Morning news, Savannah Morning News, Savannah Georgia.

  • Peggy Young

    And when they ask for a millage increase next spring they won’t understand that the voters are fed up with their wasteful spending. Half a million dollars to change out all of the Rebel gym floors, stadiums etc. would go a long ways toward the actual needs of our students. We need some common sense when it comes to blowing tax payers money!

  • Brian Archibald

    Why did they have to change the song and the mascot anyways? What was wrong with it? Why can’t they left things alone? I see nothing wrong with the song or the mascot. Did they listen to the parent before they voted or was the school broad mind was already made up before the meeting?

  • chadrob30

    It’s a sad day in Fort Smith. Erasing history with the stroke of the pen. Unbelievable. My daughter will NOT be attending this school.

  • Pam Euper

    If a song and a flag can be divisional it would seem to me that the names of the schools are also divisional. Northside and Southside; could the town be any more divided? If the song and mascot for Southside has to be changed, let’s change the names of both schools to honor educators – maybe Ray Baker High School for Southside and Farnsworth High School for Northside.

  • Sarah Turnage

    The school board is a bunch of cowards and have no backbone. This should have never been an issue. If my children can not attend the same school and be a Rebel just like my husband and I, then you can bet your sweet patootie that they will go elsewhere.

  • Susan Brodie

    The school board is doing the right thing, & that’s not always the popular thing. The old south is dead, & all those symbols need to be put in museums where they belong, it is history, & we need to move on. Glad to see our community moving forward.

    • Cary Mathews

      So do you propose all historical objects and references be put away? Do we remove all historical people from our currency and coins? Do we rename all of our streets and buildings and schools? Your idea of burying the past is insane…or are you in favor of only burying the past you don’t care about?

  • itsjustmitchie

    You know what represents the community? The people. Not a mascot. Changing the mascot will not end racism. Putting down the confederate flag will not end racism. What will end racism is if we don’t influence it. Kids are more observant than we think. They are not born to hate. They don’t know the difference of skin color. But when they see a person, an adult, doing something wrong, such as being racist, then they’re more than likely to copy. Especially if it’s done by an adult they know.

    Whether you like it or not, it is part of our history. Just because the flag is no longer flying and Southside is no longer the Rebels; it will not erase history. People will not forget. It isn’t that simple.

    I understand the boards decision and I will respect it. But it breaks my heart knowing I will not graduate as a rebel like my brothers have.

    I’m sorry if the confederate flag offends you or our mascot offends you and I’m sorry if you were on the other end of a racist comment. But not everyone is like that.

    Take pride in our history. Not the negativity. Take pride in how far we’ve come.

    Yes, slavery is wrong, no question about that. Did you know george washington owned slaves? Should we not erase him from history as well? No? Why? Because we focused on the good. The positive.

    Why can’t we do that for the Rebels?

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