Last week, school districts in Texas and Arkansas decided to rid themselves of their “Dixie” fight songs as controversy continues to bubble up over schools’ use of Confederate-themed imagery.
In Fort Smith, Ark., the Fort Smith school board voted 7-0 on July 27 to officially drop Southside High School’s “Dixie” fight song and change its “Rebel” mascot, one month after it initially decided to discontinue the use of both. In a statement following the first vote, superintendent Benny Gooden said board members gave “great consideration to the continuing impact of perceived symbols of racism on the community, state, and nation” in discussing the possible abolishment of the mascot and fight song.
According to ArkansasOnline.com, the mascot, which has been in place for 52 years, will be retired before the 2016-17 school year. The fight song, meanwhile, will no longer be in use starting this coming school year. Gooden told board members it would cost roughly $200,000 to replace the mascot, the site reported. According to ArkansasNews.com, “Other Rebel-related monikers like the Dixie Belles drill team, Confederate girls’ volleyball team, and Johnny Rebs choir will also be changed.”
Some members of the community were less than thrilled with the decision to drop the mascot and theme song, with one going so far as to file a lawsuit against the district for allegedly violating the state’s Freedom of Information Act. The suit alleges that the business at the meeting held in June “did not come within the purpose set forth in the call for meeting,” as the district made no mention of a possible discussion about the mascot and fight song.
The Hays Consolidated Independent School District in Buda, Texas, took similar action last week, dropping Hays High School’s “Dixie” fight song effective immediately. In a statement, the district cited the song’s “potential to divide current and future students” as the reason for the change, noting, “there are many in the district who see ‘Dixie’ and the confederate flag as hurtful and hateful.” (The district had already banned the use of the Confederate flag as a school symbol in 2000 and prohibited its display on all district property in 2012.)
“The district believes removing the confederate flag and ‘Dixie’ divorces all symbols of the confederacy from the campus and returns the school to its original starting-point—a rebel culture free from historically negative associations,” the district said in its statement. Hays High School will either revert to its original fight song, “On Wisconsin,” or adopt a different song entirely.
Unlike Southside High School, however, Hays High School will continue to use a “Rebel” as its mascot.
“Rebels are people who have the courage to fight for their beliefs and the independence and integrity to bring about social change,” the district said in its statement. “History is full of rebels, including the patriots who rose up against a tyrannical British Crown to form our country, the Texans who fought to form a republic, and a host of other movements and individuals who have challenged the status quo and changed the world.”
The district didn’t rule out a possible mascot change in the future, but declared that it must be a student-led effort.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.