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D215 Board approves student survey of Rebels as TF South team name

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.

The District 215 School Board held their regular meeting on June 23 via Zoom.

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.

TF South High School
TF South High School is located at 18500 Burnham Avenue in Lansing, Illinois. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma
Melanie Jongsma grew up in Lansing, Illinois, and believes The Lansing Journal has an important role to play in building community through trustworthy information.


  1. Show me how its offense to race to others the name Rebels ? Rebels could mean to you? Then other should be also know that meaning too? What will the board change think of a new name after 50 years plus using Rebels ? What will happen after people are of offended by the nrw name? This could go on and on .

    • A confederate flag used to fly from the roof and they fire a civil war cannon ar football games. Not hard to connect the dots

  2. I am a TF SOUTH graduate of 1961. I would be very offended if the name REBEL was removed. There is a reason that name was chosen. It’s part of our school history and memories. Please don’t change it.

    • All of the yearbooks in our library from the 60’s and 70’s had racist annotations within them. I am personally offended to currently attend a school that had that type of “school history” the name “rebel” is tainted. End of story.

  3. The History Is What Matters. The Name Still Holds Weight. It’s Like Saying “Oh Slavery Is Over And Nigger Is Just A Word,” Knowing The History Of The Word Was To Keep Us Under Other Races. Why Would People Be Offended By A New Name That Doesn’t Have A Racist Meaning Behind It, A Word Representing School Sprit Without The Double Meaning. A School That Is Majority Blacks And Hispanics Should Listen To How Minorities Feel About How We Are Represented. We Should Think Of A New Name As A New Beginning And Just Another Milestone Of Our Movement, A Sign In Our Hometown That Our Teenage Voices Actually Mean Something. There Shouldn’t Be A Question About Why A Name, Previously Deemed Racist, Should Be Changed In Today’s Time. It’s 2020, Let’s Make A Change.

  4. I am a grad of T.F. South. A Rebel and always a Rebel, you can’t take that away or change it. D.T.

  5. So many people want to remove that which is unpleasant in their lives, myself included. So many people want to eliminate all memory of that which is unpleasant in their lives, myself included. So many people choose to give new names to that which is unpleasant in their lives, myself included. You say Rebel, I say Rebel. By definition, to be a rebel is ‘a person who refuses allegiance to, resists, or rises in arms against the government or ruler of his or her country.’ By definition, to rebel is to ‘be defiant’. Are these high-schoolers committing such an offense? Can they be compared to the recent attacks on others and their property in the name of justice? You can change the name to whatever you think will eradicate racism, but know this, it is not a defense. So many people are saddened and horrified at the atrocities of man from the beginning of time, myself included. And, yes, there is that adage about sins of our fathers, but lets keep this in perspective. Any human being fighting for a cause against the established can be called a rebel. The protesters are rebels by definition as is a first year high school student sticking up for his right to chose his own mascot, as well as, the child who throws a temper tantrum when parent-set bedtimes are enforced. So you see, to say the word ‘rebel’ as if it were a symbol of racism is mute as it can be said of every one who walks the face if this earth. Why not pray instead? That way we can all see each other through God’s loving eyes. Let us ask Him what He wants. He is, after all, the true Privilege, and not we ourselves. It is not our common ground we need to achieve, it is God’s.

    Peace be to you.

    • Who is rebelling against God? All of us sans perfect people. How is that for common ground?

    • I completely agree with you that rebel can have many meaning and in itself is not a racist term, and I’m not even saying that the people who choose the name were racist, but you can’t separate the fact that when the name was chosen the symbols they chose connected the name to the confederacy. A confederate soldier and the flag. A confederacy that in thier declaration of secession named slavery as the reason they were seceeding. And a flag that has been used by hate groups. If they would have used one of those other forms of rebel when they choose the term the connection wouldnt have been there. And I am curious about how many former rebels still support the school they are so proud of. Go to games, share experiences with the students during career fairs, supporting the booster club. Making the school something more in the community with the support of the people that went there. And if they aren’t, why do they care, changing the name will not replace thier memories or the times and people they cherished during thier time there

      • Dear Chuck,

        My point exactly. Changing names and removing symbols will not rid this world of fear that leads to hatred. In this case, a ‘Rebel’ surrendered and few welcomed him home. The war of emancipation set in motion the ground work that did not require the acceptance of the loser. Let that defeat be the new definition of Rebel. Consider it a choice of the Confederate leader to give up the battle, at the same time holding fast to his beliefs. So what was the war for if not to change the thinking of injustice?

        Only God knows.

        • Depends on who you are saying was the “loser.” If you are referring to the former slaves then I agree, if are you referring to the former confederates I wholeheartedly disagree. Reconstruction and the events that followed allowed for that “loser” to redifine what their new world was goong to look like. Within the years of reconstruction and those that followed almost all confederate states were back under leadership of former confederates. The former people, who once again stated in different ways the reason they were fighting was to keep another group of people held in slavery, were now in charge of what post civil war America would look like. I believe that the God I believe in does not want me to hurt others. I believe that he has also given us free will. God gives us opportunities to do whats right and its up to us to make the right choices. This is not the first time this has come up in our society and in this school, maybe it keeps coming back up because its time to take advantage of the opportunity to love thy neighbor and start to challenge that fear. We are once again battling injustice, an injustice that we have had the opportunities throughout history to do something about, and sometimes it starts in our own communities with small steps.

        • Dear Chuck,

          Absolutely. This is what comes of man fighting his own battles for what he wants at all cost. This is sheer disobedience to God and God has dealt with man accordingly for it. The farther away we get from what God wants, the farther away we are from Him. If we are farther away from the Love of God, who (or what) do we get closer to? This is the battle at hand. The battle between good and evil. It is not pretty, and until Christ returns we will have the opportunity to invite Love into our hearts. This is only accomplished by example. It is the hardest task for man, but the easiest of all for God. I could never understand why people feel the need to surrender to mankind when God is the One who holds our eternity in his hands. Surrendering to God acknowledges that we are powerless and in doing so we accept his will for us setting us free from the world in the process by elevating us above our circumstances. Abiding in Him will produce nothing short of love and affection for our fellow man. We will be unable to see someone in any other light for the (Gal 5:22-23) fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
          23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.. (KJV)

          God may not deal with our transgressions in this life. Doesn’t mean we got away with something. Judgment day is a promise. The thing is, God will never force us to love him. It wouldn’t be love of our own free will if he did. There is no greater privilege than the grace and mercy from God the Father. Despite all of our sins, he couldn’t love us more.

          Yours in Christ.

  6. It is a discriminatory word. Yes it has history with the school but it’s not anything to be proud of or carry on. Seeing black face and noose in the old year books after graduating from here in 2019 disgust me. It has and always came from a bad place and needs to be changed. Like another commenter mentioned slavery is over but does that change the fact that saying nigger is hatred. I can’t believe this is still a question it has been brought to their attention years ago. Now everyone wants to possibly make a change because of the circumstances now !? THIS SHOULD NOT BE UP FOR DEBATE !

  7. TF South’s campus has to be at least two hundred miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line, so I never understood the connection between “Rebels” and the school I graduated from.. I have a nephew who attended TF South who challenged the need to have “Johnny Reb” be the school mascot. It made more sense to him to have “James Dean” be the mascot. Regardless, I think it is both intelligent and brave to ask the students to express how they feel about maintaining the sports team nickname of “Rebels”. Just out of curiosity, I looked at other “South” high schools to see what name they had come up with. Maine South calls itself the “Hawks”. Glenbrook South calls itself the “Titans”. I often thought how an athlete like Pierre Thomas felt about being a “Rebel”. I think somebody should ask him. I, myself, a 1959 graduate of TF South, always thought the nickname was not appropriate, and a little to easy to come up with. Maybe TF South sports teams should be called the Cardinals. Also, When I think of Lansing and the history of Lansing, the word “Pioneer” comes to mind because I felt there was a real pioneer spirit here when I was newspaper delivery boy and Lansing had only 1,800 residents, but the nickname “Pioneers” already belongs to Hammond Clark High School. But I do think there is value in considering another nickname. Perhaps TF South could become the Explorers, building off the history related to the French Marquette and Joliet, who actually set foot on Illinois soil, but “Explorer” could also suggest future growth and exploration in outer space. Whatever is chosen or kept, I applaud the school for asking the students what they think.

    • How refreshing to let the school name reflect a positive and strong approach for all. While a name like ‘pioneer’ might garner the approval of some, the Native-Americans may find it offensive since the only way one can become a pioneer is to “be the first to enter or settle a region”. That belongs to those that were the First Nation.

      Taken from the Thornton Historical Society website, the history of our area is such:

      Native Americans lived along the east side of Thorn Creek. Artifacts dating to 1400CE have been found at the Hoxie Site. It has been learned that this site was an Indian fortification consisting of outer ditches or trenches and inside the works of the fortification proper. In the 1500’s, this area was a Miami Indian campground. They were followed by the Blackhawk and Illini tribes. By 1674, they were displaced by Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa. On October 20, 1832, the Chief of the Potawatomi Tribe entered into the Tippecanoe Treaty with the U. S. Government. The tribe was moved to Oklahoma and most of the property was ceded to the white settlers.

      It should be the duty of every student who considers tossing in a new school mascot name to do some homework. What a great way to educate themselves about others. As Malcom S. Forbes (Forbes Magazine) once said, “The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.”

  8. I have to disagree with Revis.

    I think it’s a dishonor to the many generations alumni who have graduated as TF South Rebels.

    I seriously do not think that the founders of TF South had any racism in mind when the TF South Rebels were chosen as the name of the school.

    It is my opinion that you are disenfranchising the history of the school you are dishonoring countless numbers of graduating alumni from several Generations from voicing their opinion.

    We talk about Justice and fairness it’s my opinion the alumni should have say as well as the students.

    Now don’t get me wrong I totally disagree with racism but I do not think that the name Rebel ever had anything to do with racism.

    I can agree that the Confederate flag was a touching point but to completely take away the legacy of the school the legacy of the TF South Rebels cuz it needs salt to every student that ever walk through those doors and graduated as a TF South Rebel.

  9. The confederate symbolism may have been just fine for a period in America that is long over. People are hurt by what the images of rebel flags, and confederate soldiers represent. If a positive change is to be made, the time is now. If the current population of students (majority Black and Hispanic) find the confederate inferences offensive then they should be changed.

    The kids who now attend should be allowed to make their own memories, without their mascot being linked to a time in this country of racist oppression. This takes nothing from the alumni, who have every right to cherish good memories of their time at the school.

    No community would ask children at a Jewish school to keep a mascot dressed as a Nazi soldier for historical reasons. Why is this even up for debate? No one is in a position to tell another human what should or shouldn’t be offensive to them. If the current body of students are offended, and want to make a change, this should be allowed.

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