Orange County school board votes to re-brand controversial mascot, Johnny Rebel

ANAHEIM, Calif. (KABC) -- An Orange County school board unanimously voted to re-brand Savanna High School's mascot, Johnny Rebel, which became a controversial figure for students.

The school board, with one abstention, voted to keep the name "Rebels," but decided the Johnny Rebel illustration will be a thing of the past.

Superintendent Michael Matsuda said student opinions were important in the decision as they worked with students for five days to reflect on the mascot controversy in a lesson of democratic discourse.

The decision stemmed from a student-led effort to have a dialogue about the Confederate mascot at the Anaheim school. The students even engaged in academic research on the subject and presented arguments to keep, remove or re-brand the mascot last month.

Several students told the board at an earlier meeting that they felt the mascot did not represent them as minorities and that it stands against diversity. Some students said they see him as a symbol of the Confederacy and slavery.

"They should just replace it because re-branding it is just throwing it under the rug and keeping it is just promoting racism overall," student Robel Gindaba said.

There were other students and alumni who disagreed and thought Johnny Rebel should remain the same as they do not see him as offensive.

"I don't think it's discrimination. I think it's a part of history and people should learn to accept that it's part of history, whether it's negative or positive," alumni Vern Clark said.

In 2015, the district said its board took unanimous action to demolish a Confederate statue of Johnny Rebel that was mounted in the quad.

Johnny Rebel had been the mascot for the school since the 1960s.
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