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Bowsher community reconsiders Rebels moniker

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    Bowsher High School students exit the building under a Rebel logo Friday. Discussions of changing the school's nickname and emblem intensified in the wake the death of a protester at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

    The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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    Bowsher High School's logo.

    The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Bowsher High School may soon have a new mascot and logo to replace the Confederate soldier that has been the South Toledo High School’s emblem for decades.

The district over the last few years heard from some community members concerned about the school’s Rebels nickname and emblem, TPS deputy superintendent Brian Murphy said. Discussions on the topic intensified in the wake of an Aug. 12 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. One counterprotester died and others were injured after a driver — whom police identified as South Toledo resident James A. Fields, Jr. — drove his car into a crowd of people protesting the rally.

CTY-Bowsher25p

Bowsher High School students exit the building under a Rebel logo Friday. Discussions of changing the school's nickname and emblem intensified in the wake the death of a protester at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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“The administration at Bowsher thought that the time was right to ask some questions about the logo and to let the community know that they are sensitive to the national discussion about logos,” Mr. Murphy said.

The rally was billed as a protest against the planned removal of Confederate monuments, in particular a Robert E. Lee statue in the Virginia town. The incident has sparked protests both for and against removing similar monuments across the country, reignited discussions around the Confederate flag’s symbolism, and spurred several groups in northwest Ohio to hold their own rallies against racism and bigotry.

Bowsher’s Rebels team names and logo date back to the school’s opening in 1962, when 95 percent of incoming students chose the Rebels in response to a mascot preference survey, Toledo Public Schools officials said. The original logo was a Confederate soldier carrying a Confederate flag, but about a decade ago the Confederate flag was replaced with a one that simply says “Rebels.” 

In an Aug. 23 post on the TPS Facebook page, Bowsher principal Teri Sherwood asked for feedback from students, staff, alumni, and community members about the mascot.

“An aspect I love about Bowsher is its diversity in students, staff, and community. We represent every socioeconomic class, race, religion, and sexual orientation,” she wrote. “However, I don’t believe we have a mascot, a Confederate soldier, that represents who we are.”

Ms. Sherwood went on to say she believes students can still be Rebels and be “‘Rebel Proud’ with whatever mascot thought best to represent us.”

So far feedback has been split. The post was shared 132 times and had garnered 170 comments as of Sunday afternoon. Among the comments, emails, and letters, about half advocate for the soldier to stay, while the other 50 percent want something new, TPS spokesman Patty Mazur said.

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Bowsher High School's logo.

The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
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Bowsher sophomore Tevin Gregory, 15, said after class outside Bowsher Friday afternoon that he wants to see the logo changed “now.”

“You can’t have that type of stuff on your school. They’re going to think we’re racist,” he said. “I don’t think we [are].”

Tevin said he doesn’t care what the new mascot would be, so long as it isn’t a Confederate soldier.

Freshman Logen Love, 14, said she likes the name Rebels because it stands out from the other TPS high schools. But she, too, believes the soldier has to go.

She said she isn’t personally offended by the mascot because she associates Bowsher with rebels in a general sense, not with Confederate soldiers. But she understands how the Civil War-era symbolism could offend others who view Confederate soldiers as fighting in favor of slavery.

“I don’t know what specifically, but I feel like they should change it to an animal or something,” Logen said. “We don’t really think about the rebel as the soldier.”

Bowsher Junior Taine Nedd, 16, believes the school should keep the logo as-is.

“I just think it’s school pride,” she said. “It’s too late to change it. They should have done it already.”

Community members can email their thoughts to tsherwoo@tps.org or mail them to Ms. Sherwood at Bowsher High School, 2200 Arlington Ave., Toledo, 43614.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103 or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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