Cullowhee Valley Rebel Colonel

Left and center, The Rebel mascot as presented in years past. Right, the Confederate battle flag is displayed at a Cullowhee High School basketball game.

By Dave Russell

 

The Jackson County Board of Education decided unanimously Tuesday to retire the Rebel, the Cullowhee Valley School mascot. The Rebel has been symbolized by a Southern Colonel caricature.

At the Nov. 17 meeting, board Chair Ali Laird-Large advised the board she would add the issue to the January agenda.

We have discussed and had meetings on, and taken input from, the community, students, everyone (about) the Cullowhee Valley School mascot,” she said at the board’s Tuesday meeting. “And at this time we will take a vote on the Cullowhee Valley School mascot. After it passes or is defeated, either way, we will explain what will go on next.”

Board member Elizabeth Cooper read the proposal the board would consider.

“At this time I make a motion that the Board of Education hereby directs that the current mascot name and logo at Cullowhee Valley School be discontinued,” Cooper said. “Furthermore, I move that the students of Cullowhee Valley School shall be permitted to select the new mascot and logo by no later than the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. The timeline and process for selection by the student body shall be left to the discretion of the superintendent and administration of Cullowhee Valley School.”

The motion was seconded by Wes Jamison and passed unanimously following a voice vote.

“And at this time I think that the motion actually explained everything that will happen and it will be the superintendent and Cullowhee Valley School that will proceed,” Laird-Large said.

Before the vote, one person spoke against the mascot and no one spoke in favor.

Kelley Dinkelmeyer, the mother of a CVS 7th-grader, substitute and volunteer at the school said she grew up in south Georgia with the Confederacy in her life.

“I’m sure I had more than a few rebel T-shirts myself, and I wore a plantation hoop skirt to prom,” Dinkelmeyer said. “So I get that the symbolism means different things to different people. To some it is a point of pride, to others it is a symbol of hate.”

Her daughter and other students saw the Rebel as a symbol of hate, she said.

“If all the students can’t feel good about the mascot, it is not a mascot, it is a piece of adult nostalgia,” she said. “I think it is time to give these students a symbol they all can rally behind and feel good about, and I think the children deserve to make their own happy memory at the school.”

CVS parents had brought the issue to the board’s attention starting in October, when two CVS graduates, including PTA President Emily Virtue, spoke to the board.

The Rebel was the mascot for Cullowhee High School and was retained by CVS after the high school was consolidated with Sylva-Webster to form Smoky Mountain High School.