GREELEY, Colo. — The national debate over Confederate statues has spread to a small high school in northern Colorado whose mascot is called the Rebel and wears a costume resembling a Civil War military uniform.
Weld Central School District's position is that the mascot is a symbol of Weld Central High School pride, not racism, the Greeley Tribune reported Saturday.
Superintendent Greg Rabenhorst said he has received a handful of calls from parents and alumni, mostly in favor of the mascot.
An online petition supporting the mascot had more than 1,100 signatures Friday. Another asking for a change had only about 30.
Weld Central is outside the small town of Keenesburg, about 40 miles northeast of Denver. The school has about 620 students, according to the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Cities and states across the nation have been arguing the fate of Confederacy memorials and symbols since an Aug. 12 demonstration by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, in support of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
One person was killed and 19 were hurt when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters.
Rabenhorst said the emblem of the Weld Central mascot used to appear with depictions of Confederate flags, but the district removed the flags years ago. He said he was not sure when.
Most of the time the school uses the initials "WC" as its emblem, not the rebel, he said.
Nichole Park, whose son attends Weld Central High School, said she saw no reason to change the mascot.
"It's just a symbol," she told KMGH-TV in Denver (http://bit.ly/2vgNLrc). "It's nothing to worry about. I think people should just leave stuff alone."
Susie Machuca, who teaches English as a second language at Weld Central, said parents and teachers have expressed concerns about the mascot for years.
"It's extremely negative and not a positive image, especially for youngsters," she told the newspaper. "It represents hate."
Machuca said she's glad people are discussing the mascot again and hopes the debate stays civil.
"It needs to be out in the open, because that's how change will occur," Machuca said. "We have to communicate and collaborate together in a respectful way, whether you agree with the mascot or not."