KYLE, Texas - Hays CISD administration says it will be recommending that the Board of Trustees vote to change the Hays High School Rebel mascot after receiving student, teacher, and community feedback.
According to school board policy, the Board must vote to change the mascot.
Hays CISD says that nearly 60 percent of students and more than 70 percent of teachers and staff reported little to no comfort with the current mascot and more than a quarter of students and nearly a third of teachers and staff said they were very uncomfortable.
"The mascot of a high school is supposed to serve as a unifying symbol and a rallying-point for school pride – a way for all students to collectively celebrate their academic, athletic, and fine arts accomplishments and cheer on their teams," the district said in a release. "When a mascot mires the school in political controversy and pits students, families, and community members against each other; it is time to change."
The district says the debate to change the Rebel mascot has been going on for more than 20 years. Previously, the school stopped using the Confederate flag as its official symbol in 2000, and in 2012, the district banned displaying the flag on any district property, ending its unofficial use. In 2015, the school also stopped using Dixie as its fight song.
"Because of the previous association with symbols of the confederacy, the district now believes it would be impossible to rebrand the Hays High School rebels and completely sever the mascot’s connection to confederate imagery that is hurtful and hateful to many," the district says.
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During the week of June 29, Hays CISD says it sent over 2,300 invitations to students to participate in a mascot survey, which asked them to gauge their comfort level with the mascot on a seven-point scale from very uncomfortable to very comfortable.
Out of the 1,152 responses, almost 41 percent of students (472 students) said they were uncomfortable with the mascot, with almost 27 percent (309 students) saying they were very uncomfortable and want it changed. Just over 40 percent of students (465 students) said they were comfortable with the mascot, with just over 33 percent (385 students) saying they were very comfortable and wanted to keep it.
Around 17.5 percent (202 students) said they had no opinion and 13 students who responded to the survey declined to answer the question.
The district says it also sent 265 invitations to teachers and staff, asking them the same questions. Out of 146 responses, just over 52 percent or 76 staff members said they were uncomfortable, with 30 percent or 44 staff members saying they were very uncomfortable and wanted it changed. Almost 29 percent or 42 staff members said they were comfortable with the mascot, with almost 21 percent or 32 staff members saying they were very comfortable and wanted to keep it.
28 staff members, or just over 19% of respondents, said they had no opinion, and all teachers and staff who took the survey answered the question.
The district says that in addition to these surveys, the Board can also consider an online community petition with more than 1,400 signatures as of July 2 in its decision. Students have also formed a committee to change the mascot and say they have a petition themselves with more than 500 signatures.
If the board chooses to make the change, trustees will need a recommendation on a new mascot, according to the district. The survey also asked students what they would like to see as a new mascot, and from the top write-in responses that met criteria, the district prepared a choice selection sheet.
The top choices are Hawks, Hornets, Patriots, Cowboys, Eagles, Hurricanes, Hyenas, Phoenixes, Lions, Mavericks, Wildcats, Dragons, and Honey Badgers. Each student will have an opportunity to express his or her favorite choice from the selection sheet, says the district. Students will receive links to the choice selection sheets beginning this week. The choice selection sheet responses will be presented to the Board to consider, should the Board vote to change the mascot.
The district says the Board is expected to consider the issue as early as later this month. If the Board changes the mascot, the district will help Hays High School transition based on a workable timeline developed and announced after a Board decision.
In anticipation of a possible change, the district will begin preparing an inventory, with associated costs, of items needing to be changed, including uniforms and signage. No total cost estimate was completed at this time.