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Kirkland’s Juanita High School is retiring the ‘Rebels’ mascot

Kirkland's Juanita High School mascot will be retired.

After much debate among students, parents, staff and alumni, Lake Washington School District Superintendent Dr. Jon Holmen announced that Kirkland’s Juanita High School will be getting a new mascot.

“I’ve determined that the Rebel mascot does not meet the criteria that was set forth on administrative policy,” Holmen said.

Is ‘Rebels’ racist? Heated debate over Kirkland’s Juanita High School mascot

When Juanita High School opened in 1971, the Rebel mascot was chosen to represent rebelliousness, and doing things a new way. But some time in the 1980s, the school’s logo was changed, taking on many features of the Confederate flag. That logo was painted on school walls and printed in the yearbook.

“Rebel” has several meanings, and one of them is a name for Confederate soldiers that fought to maintain slavery during the Civil War. In the early 1990s, all signs of the Confederacy were removed from the logo, but it’s still a part of the school’s history.

“From my review of the situation, the Juanita High School mascot was put in place with good intentions,” said Superintendent Holmen, speaking at the school board meeting Monday. “I have no reason to believe that the term ‘Rebel,’ in its inception at Juanita High School, was to honor or glorify slavery, or to be a reflection of the Confederacy or the Confederate values. I also know that the term ‘Rebel’ does have direct linkages to the Confederacy.”

“When I reviewed the research around the term ‘Rebel,’ it continued to point back each time to the Confederacy,” he added. “It links to terms such as ‘the south,’ referencing the region that fought for slave holding. The idea of the stars and bars or the Confederate flag. There are unfortunate historical references or visualizations at Juanita High School to the Confederacy, connecting the school to the Confederacy.”

Holmen said many students, parents, and staff complained that they have had to explain the meaning behind the mascot.

“To assure people that it isn’t what they think it might be, or that it isn’t connected to the Confederacy. That’s a challenge in this situation. In hearing from a number of new students, particularly students who moved to the Juanita area from the south, it was actually a shocking experience for them to move into a community and see the mascot at the local high school be a Rebel,” he said. “Since they had gone through school, learning, and education around the Confederacy started very young, so for them it was almost abrupt when they came and saw the mascot at Juanita High School was a Rebel.”

Two years ago, after a petition to remove the mascot circulated at Juanita High School, the majority of students voted to keep the mascot. On Monday, Holmen announced a few policy changes. He said letting students vote on the mascot proved to be divisive, and from now on it will be an administrative decision. The superintendent can now remove a mascot if it’s not in line with the district’s values.

A new mascot has yet to be selected.

“There will be a naming committee comprised of parents, students, staff, school administration. Students get to submit options. Then it comes back to myself and a team,” Holmen said. “We have the final say over which options the students will get to vote on. We evaluate less about, ‘Do we like any of them?,’ and more that it’s in alignment with our policies and values. Then those names that are approved will go onto a ballot and each student will have the opportunity to vote one time.”

Holmen said a mascot should unite a student body and not be divisive, as the Rebels mascot has been. He said every student should feel safe at school and no one should be offended by a mascot.

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