FROM SUBMITTTED REPORTS
Fifteen years after it dropped a Confederate battle flag as its official school symbol, Hays High School has retired ‘Dixie’ as its school song. The Rebel mascot itself will not be changed outside of “organized student-led initiative,” school district officials said. Hays High School principal sent this statement to parents today:
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The consolidation of rivals Kyle and Buda High Schools was a resounding success because of the early coalescence of pride, spirit, and camaraderie formed around the identity of the brand new Jack C. Hays High School. In 1968, there was no guarantee the experiment of the Hays Consolidated Independent School District would work and odds may even have been against the venture. The achievement of a smooth and lasting merger was and is a celebrated accomplishment. At its root is Hays High School and the deeply held loyalty to the campus by current and former students and supporters. Students selected red, white, and blue as the school colors and the Rebels as the school mascot. “On Wisconsin” was the original fight song.
The confederate flag and the song “Dixie” were not part of the original Hays High School brand, but they emerged very early and organically developed into school traditions. To the people of the district, the symbols meant school pride. In the eyes of the district, the symbols have never meant any type of support for slavery, racism, or hate. The people of Hays CISD are compassionate, intelligent, and generous. Those who defend the imagery that has been associated with the campus are defending the long-held connection and deference they have for the school. However, and equally as important, the imagery holds different meanings for individuals.
Hays CISD belongs to the people of the district and must respect and reflect the sentiments of all of its students and citizens. Since its inception, the district has grown almost 20-fold – from a little more than 1,000 students to nearly 20,000. Today, there are many in the district who see “Dixie” and the confederate flag as hurtful and hateful. And, it is the growing, prevailing sentiment across the nation.
The district recognized the animosity caused by the confederate flag in 2000 and banned its use as an official symbol of Hays High School. It went further in 2012 and banned its display on all district property and at all district events. It is now time to retire “Dixie” and return to the school’s original fight song or select another. “Dixie” will forever remain a part of the history of the campus for its role in uniting two rivals in a shared school spirit. But, because of the song’s potential to divide current and future students, the change must happen. It is the decision of senior leadership from both the campus and district to make the change effective immediately.
The district believes removing the confederate flag and “Dixie” divorces all symbols of the confederacy from the campus and returns the school to its original starting-point – a rebel culture free from historically negative associations. Rebels are people who have the courage to fight for their beliefs and the independence and integrity to bring about social change.
History is full of rebels including the patriots who rose up against a tyrannical British Crown to form our country, the Texans who fought to form a republic, and a host of other movements and individuals who have challenged the status quo and changed the world. The rebel mascot was created by the first Hays High School students and it has passed from generation to generation. It belongs to the current and future students. Any consideration of making a mascot change would need to originate as an organized student-led initiative.