Petition circulating to change Boyle County High School Rebel mascot

BCHS alumnus explains decision to start the petition

 

A petition circulating online aims to replace the Boyle County High School “Rebel” mascot.

Daniel Morgan, a 2003 graduate of Boyle County High School who is now a high school history teacher in Louisville, said he authored the petition which has garnered more than 160 signatures over the last couple of days.

“I’m a graduate of Boyle County, and even when I went to school there, it was something that stuck in my craw,” said Morgan, who also ran cross-country at BCHS and won multiple state titles. “It never sat right with me. I was never glad that was our mascot. It was very apparent what its intentions were.”

Morgan, who graduated from George Washington University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and is pursuing a Master’s degree in the subject, said the history behind the Rebel mascot is “inescapable.”

“No school should be trying to represent itself in a way that promotes people who were trying to break away from the United States while simultaneously claiming patriotism, and more importantly, the rationale behind doing that was to keep an entire class of people enslaved,” Morgan said. “To use as your mascot the side that was trying to promote that institution is abhorrent.”

Morgan’s petition has gained some traction online and has been shared multiple times on social media. The petition notes the rich academic and athletic history of Boyle County High School.

“Boyle County High School has a tradition of excellence. BCHS is a top ten academic school in Kentucky,” the petition states. “Its football team has won seven KHSAA championships; its marching band has won three KMEA championships; it has seen multiple cross-country and track & field athletes win KHSAA titles, both as individuals and as teams. These are just a sample of the many accolades the students of Boyle County High School have won.

Additionally, many alumni have built upon their BCHS education by attending renowned colleges and universities across the US. Alumni have gone on to successful careers in medicine, engineering, finance, film production, education and numerous other fields thanks to their educational foundation at BCHS.”

However, that reputation, according to Morgan’s petition, is tarnished by the Rebel mascot.

“Despite all of these accomplishments, there is one very important aspect of Boyle County High School that tarnishes its reputation: its mascot, the Rebel,” the petition states. “… BCHS has a tradition of excellence that is tarnished by this display of racist imagery.”

Morgan said he knows many individuals who have been protesting the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, who was shot and killed by three Louisville Metro Police officers as the officers executed a no-knock warrant on Taylor’s apartment on the night of March 13. During this time, he said, he sat down one evening to write his thoughts out in the form of a letter, which he used to create the petition with some editing help from his parents and wife.

Morgan said he also reached out to some people within the Boyle County community who have been working on addressing racial inequality issues.

“I just wanted to coordinate on that to make sure that we’re doing this in a way that honors their position,” Morgan said.

The petition states that the mascot is a reference to the Confederate military and a “bigoted attitude” and is “a sore spot” for many in the community, particularly students of color at Boyle County High School.

“With a name and images such as these there can be no doubt that the BCHS mascot is a reference to the Confederate Military and a bigoted attitude,” the petition states. “This is recognized by many who attended, worked at, competed against, or sent children to Boyle County. It has been a sore spot for many of them, including for many competing under its name and especially for the students of color.”

The petition calls for the removal and replacement of the Rebel mascot.

“Symbols have the power to unite people around a common purpose, such as sports or academic advancement,” the petition states. “But symbols can divide people as well. To continue to use the Rebel mascot indicates that BCHS promotes racist ideology and the dehumanization of an entire class of people. It is past time for BCHS’s mascot to live up to the high standards set by its students and staff, academically and athletically.

There is no time like the one we are in to make such a change happen. This reform would communicate to every student that walks through the doors of BCHS an openness and acceptance of them; that they are welcome regardless of race. This is an action you have the power to take, and we hope there is the courage to take it. It is time for Boyle County High School to remove and replace its racist mascot.”

The Boyle County Rebel mascot was implemented in 1963, and being around that long has created a sense of tradition for many of its alumni. Morgan said he recognizes that tradition and the power of it, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that many see the mascot as divisive.

“I recognize that traditions are incredibly powerful,” Morgan said. “Many people in the area define themselves by their high school. Many participated in sports under that moniker or they cheered teams on under that moniker. I think for many, the transference of pride in their schools has been transferred to pride in that mascot.”

Morgan said the petition has attracted the signatures of a “wide swath” of people, from alumni who graduated in the 1960s to current students. Morgan said it has been encouraging to see such a diverse group of signatures, which also includes many parents, former teachers, former coaches, and even former administrators.

The next step is distributing these signatures and many personal statements attached to the signatures to the school’s Site-Based Decision Making Council.

Amy Bugg, a spokesperson for the Boyle County School District, said the district did not have an official statement on the issue of the mascot, but said that those concerns would first go to the BCHS SBDM council.

Morgan said there have been “polite” and “very good” conversations with BCHS Principal Mark Wade and some other council members on the topic and the issue could be brought up on a meeting agenda in the near future.

“I hope they do it because it’s the right thing,” Morgan said. “It will make Boyle County a much more inclusive institution and much more welcoming. If I were a Black student there, I would feel intimidated by something like that. The fact that the local BLM group is calling for that change should be proof that it isn’t a welcoming mascot.”

Ultimately, Morgan said, he hopes that decisions made on the BCHS mascot involve students at the school.

“We want the change in the mascot to be left to the incumbent students,” Morgan said. “They are going to be the ones to carry this out and they should be the ones who should make the decision on what their mascot should be. Ultimately, we just want something that is not disparaging towards an entire class of people.”