REO, Ind. (WEHT) In Spencer County, two petitions are gaining traction for opposing reasons. One wants to change the South Spencer High School mascot from the Rebels, while the other is hoping to keep the name in place.

With pushes for racial justice across the country, some people believe the team name the ‘Rebels’ has Confederate ties and should be changed.

South Spencer graduate Natasha Vanover says the divide her petition has caused is proof there is a problem that needs to be talked about and adds that just because this is how it’s always been, doesn’t mean it is the way it should be moving forward.

Statement from Natasha Vanover

“I know I am the creator of the petition and the person lobbying for the change with the school board, but personal recognition has never been my goal.
My purpose with this was not to create an uproar, it was simply to start a conversation. I have had people contact me who disagree with me, but just want to have a conversation about it and that is what I wanted. I think everyone should be heard. If at the end of this the decision is made to keep the rebel man, then that’s the answer, but at least people will have had the opportunity to voice their opinions because they were provided a platform to give it. A lot of people won’t speak up, because they are afraid of backlash. The anger and divide this has created drive home the fact there is a problem that needs to be talked about. The idea that this is the way it has always been doesn’t mean it is the way it should be going forward.
The goal of this is to create a greater sense of community and more unity. I never expected asking the school to consider a new mascot that is all inclusive and something we can ALL be proud of stir up so much controversy and animosity.”

In response, Alan Jones felt that he needed to do something to secure the heritage of his Alma mater.

“We’ve got this great cross county rivalry. We’re the south half, they’re the north half. Heritage Hills Patriots. South Spencer Rebels. It just makes for such good competition across the county. In particular, the fact we have rival mascots even,” Jones said.

South Spencer County Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Rutherford says the Rebel Man is strictly an animated mascot for extra curricular activities and sports.

Statement from Dr. Richard Rutherford

“Our community has been “rebel” minded for over 50 years, however, we do not consider, or speak of our Rebel Man as a Confederate Soldier.  We do not view our jolly animated mascot as anything but just that, a mascot for our extra-curricular activities and sports. I was able to speak with each of the school board members about your request to remove our mascot – we are all in agreement that there is not a need for a drastic move such as this.

We are aware of the petitions and I have had the opportunity to speak to people on both sides. Someone that I spoke to just today said, “If racism is a problem in our community, it’s an individual heart issue, not because of our mascot.”

Our main concern at South Spencer is for our students, their mental and physical well – being, and their safety.  We want our students to be able to come to school in a positive school atmosphere. We want to set an example for our students on respect and empathy for others and their opinions.  

I thank you for your pleasant nature on the phone and the open discussion.  I have an open-door policy so please reach out to me if you have any questions.”

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(This story was originally published on June 19, 2020)