OPSB votes to keep “rebel” name and mascot
WEST MONROE, La. (KNOE) -The West Monroe Rebels mascot is making headlines yet again. After a board meeting on Tuesday, the decision was made that the high school will keep its current mascot name.
The controversy over the name started after some people claimed the name is offensive.
Dalia El-Giar, a former west Monroe student, even organized a petition last year to have the name and mascot changed. The petition received hundreds of signatures from students as well as members of the community.
Students and alumni also attended Tuesday’s school board meeting.
They say the rebel mascot name represents an ugly part of our country’s history and is embedded in a culture of hate. Those who oppose it say it actually represents people who fight for change.
“We came out today to talk with the school board about changing the west Monroe high school rebel mascot. I’ve spoken to a lot of students about why it’s problematic and why a lot of students don’t feel comfortable at school because of the mascot,” said El-Giar about the need for a change.
Last year shortly after the petition began, West Monroe Principal Shelby Ainsworth retired the mascot itself.
Now, the same organization of people wants to remove the “rebel” name because of what it means.
Ainsworth, who opposes the name and mascot change, says a rebel isn’t always a bad thing to be called.
“And like we alluded to if we change people’s perspective of what the rebel name stands for, and the definition that I suggested before the board, someone who exhibits courageous independence in thought and action, courageous, independence and call that...and that’s a definition” said Ainsworth confidently.
Ainsworth went on to say that since they retired the mascot itself and made changes to the school flag, it is not necessary to remove the name.
“Well, back in the fall of 2015, we basically eliminated the confederate flag from being flown on campus, for school during school hours, and after school, that included all the events, it was just a very, at that time, and still now. It’s not perceived, in a very nice way in many, many populations”, Ainsworth continued.
El-Giar says that those changes, while worthwhile, are not going to be enough.
“I think those changes that Mr. Ainsworth mentioned was like the perfect way to really slap a Band-Aid on this whole problem. It’s not... Not nearly enough change that needs to be made. Yeah, I mean, we can.. we can make these small changes. But in the end, it’s going to come down to the kind of school and the kind of mascot we really represent and how we represent ourselves nationally,” El-Giar said strongly.
Principal Ainsworth says while he believes he does understand what the organization wants from the school board. He doesn’t think he can give it to them.
“I have So much respect for those young people. Do I understand where they’re coming from? Yes, I do. as a principal. I certainly do. But we also believe in, in the statements that I made to the boardroom today”, Ainsworth went on to say.
El-Giar believes that the changes she and the other organizers want are possible and can happen. However, the administration and other officials just aren’t listening.
“Personally, I don’t think the message is fully received. I don’t think it really clicked with them. And they really understood why it was a problem. And the fact that they’re not willing to change the last slide, it’s not surprising to any of us this, we expected this, we expect this,” added El-Giar.
El-Giar and other organizers say they won’t stop fighting for what they believe is right. They say they are more than willing to make sure that their voices are heard and are even willing to take their concerns to a national level.
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