Rivercrest ISD is in the process of changing its fight song and it will paint over the image of a Confederate soldier in its high school gym, officials announced Wednesday evening on Facebook.
The moves come amid recent movements for equality following the death of native Texan George Floyd under the knee of a white former Minneapolis police officer’s knee. Floyd’s death has sparked weeks of protests, some of which have taken place in Paris, Clarksville and Bonham.
“The recent events that have transpired locally and across the world have resulted in a sincere reflection of the symbols we use at Rivercrest ISD and what they represent to our community and neighboring communities,” Superintendent Stanley Jessee wrote on Facebook. “Rivercrest is a place where our communities come together to learn, to compete, to fellowship, and to celebrate, and it should be a place where every person feels welcome and included. If there are symbols that possibly keep anyone from feeling that they are not included at our school, we should examine changing them.”
The goal, Jessee wrote, is to separate the school system from any Confederate symbolism that could be considered offensive to anyone who attends the district’s schools in order to foster an atmosphere of acceptance, respect and love for everyone. Rivercrest stopped using the Confederate flag and colors years ago, according to the post.
Rivercrest ISD trustee Ryan Case reposted the message to his Facebook page and added his own message in support of the action.
“When we made this decision, it was not taken lightly,” he said. “We knew there would be many hard feelings about it. But our hope is to protect the Rebel name as long as possible. Other area schools have either changed their name or have petitions out to force a name change. We are hoping that taking proactive steps in distancing ourselves from the ‘Confederate Rebel’ image and just be a Rebel in its generic form will help achieve this goal.”
The decision was made at a board meeting on Tuesday, Case said.
“It was a touch call, because we recognize the tradition of the school,” he said. “It was kind of a collective discussion we started having.”
The board agreed it would be better for the district to be proactive in distancing itself from the Confederate imagery, he said, and it would be better overall for the students in the school.
The image change will also be a reflection of how the district presents itself to visitors, he said.
“We also recognize that visiting schools and fans may find the playing of Dixie and/or the site of a Confederate soldier in the gym offensive,” Case said in his post. “I hope to see an American and Texas flag mural painted in the gym in place of the current Rebel man, however, that is just my idea. I believe that is a symbol everyone can unite behind. I commend Mr. Jessee for making this tough decision and fully support him on this.”
The school song, “Dixie,” will be replaced, Case said.
“We will find a new one,” he said, “though I don’t know how. It’s so fresh right now.”