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Weld County School examines 'Rebel' Confederate mascot

School has removed Confederate flags
Posted at 8:26 PM, Aug 18, 2017

KEENESBURG, Colo. -- If you're looking for heritage in the tiny Weld County town of Keenesburg, farming goes way back. Instead, though, the school mascot references a different past. The 'Weld Central Rebel' looks a lot like a civil-war era soldier.

"It definitely looks like a Confederate uniform," said Brandi Webb, a Weld Central parent looking at the image on the high school's website. "That's sad. If we're still in 2017, and we still have racist mascots, that's sad."

Like many rebel symbols now being re-examined, the community of Keenesburg chose the mascot during desegregation and the 1960s Civil Rights Movement (and it was frequently paired with a Confederate flag).

Superintendent Greg Rabenhorst defends the Rebel mascot, stating that the meaning has changed to school pride. But some parents aren't buying that, especially in the current political climate.

"I don't know that it's been a symbol of the Confederacy. That's certainly not the image that it is today," said Rabenhorst. "The district doesn't view it as that."

"If it's associated with anything Confederate or racist, then it is definitely time to move forward and get something that's not offensive and racist," said Webb. "That is not OK."

State Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, said that just like the American Indian Mascots he has fought to ban, Confederate images need to go.

"We need to have elected officials think about what direction we want to go as a state," said Salazar. "Do we want to honor all people here in the state?"

Meanwhile, Weld County school administrators are quietly re-branding the Rebel.

Confederate flags were removed years ago, and the mascot will soon get an updated image on the website and in schools as a more modern-looking soldier, Rabenhorst said.

"I think this particular time brings up an opportunity for the community to discuss it and see if there are changes to a mascot, mascot name, the image, logo, that kind of thing," he said.

In this politically conservative school district though, less than four percent of students are African-American, and most parents Denver7 talked to didn't see any problem with the Rebel mascot or its Confederate ties.

"I think everything that's going on right now, just because somebody doesn't like something doesn't mean you should change everything to bow down to them," said Nichole Park, whose son goes to the Weld Central High School. "It's just a symbol. It's nothing to worry about. I think people should just leave stuff alone." 

It's not the first controversy over a Confederate-themed mascot in Colorado. Students at Denver South High School are also called the "Rebels," but they successfully lobbied to have the mascot changed from a Confederate soldier to a mythological griffin in 2009.

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