by Melanie Jongsma
LANSING, Ill. (June 29, 2020) – “Per request of the Board,” reads the June 17 memo from Superintendent Teresa Lance, “I am recommending a motion to issue an electronic survey to the
students of TF South in order to take a vote on whether they want to change the school team
name/nickname ‘Rebels’.” This item appeared as New Business on the June 23 School Board meeting agenda.
Board member Rich Dust made a motion to approve the survey, and Board Vice President LeeAnn Revis seconded the motion before Board President Michael Bolz invited Board discussion of the subject.
Dust began by summarizing the two prevailing opinions about the name. One group believes the name no longer holds any overtones of Confederate soldiers. (The name was originally adopted as a joking reference to the rivalry between TF North and TF South.) Up until the 1990s, the Rebel name was personified by a cartoon drawing of a Confederate soldier nicknamed Richie Rebel, and the Confederate flag was part of the TF South brand. The mascot and flags have since been removed, so the “pro-Rebel” camp believes changing the name is not necessary.
“On the other hand,” continued Dust, “many people think it’s offensive and racist because at one time in the past—for many years in the past—it was linked to the Confederacy at the school.”
Dust suggested that a survey of current students would give the Board an indication of whether the history has lingered with the name, or whether today’s students have infused “Rebel Pride” with a new meaning.
Board member Roger Yochem felt that former students should also be included in the survey. Since many alumni support the school and are still connected to it, he expressed an obligation to hear from them.
Revis disagreed. “I’m only concerned about students who are currently in our charge,” she said. “We are responsible for creating a school climate, and this name has not been helpful at all.” Revis believes the decision should be made in direct response to student voices, not as a Board mandate, and she does not want the voice of the current population to be “drowned out” by the voices of generations of alumni. “The students should have the opportunity to discuss it and own it, and own what their school is called,” she added.
After clarifying that the current motion addresses only a name change, not a full branding or color change, the Board voted unanimously to approve surveying current TF South students about changing the Rebel name.
Once the results of those surveys are in, further decisions will be made.
TF South High School is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois.